By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO
When damning information is released to the public, a professional public relations strategy has always been able to make the announcement on a late Friday afternoon heading into the weekend when the audience is distracted. As the University of Maryland released the results of their investigation into the death of Jordan McNair on the precipice of last weekend, there was an admission of guilt to what was already known, but those involved in the fatal chain of events have yet to be held accountable.
After accepting its negligence and culpability in the McNair tragedy, the University announced the results of their commissioned investigation which confirmed they didn’t react properly to his symptoms and waited too long to begin what could’ve been life-saving treatment. The 74-page report prepared by Dr. Ron Walters, head of the sports medicine consulting firm Walters, affirmed numerous protocols weren’t followed.
It was confirmed that Maryland’s athletic training was tardy when initiating treatment and they waited at least one hour before calling 911 for help. After McNair’s cramps and exhaustion were first reported at 4:53 p.m. he wasn’t taken to the football field house to begin treatment until around 5:20 p.m. The trainers didn’t call the head physician, who told them to call 911 at 5:55 p.m., which was more than an hour after McNair first started showing symptoms on the field. Another 911 call went out at 6:02 p.m. before McNair left for the hospital in an ambulance at 6:27 p.m.
Perhaps the most glaring of the missed protocols was there were no cold water immersion tanks on site because practice was moved on May 29 from Maryland Stadium to their practice field late. The absence of this procedure didn’t allow the athletic training staff to administer cold water immersion treatment at the first sign of McNair’s physical distress. This practice is common to immediately bring the body temperature down, which would have stabilized the symptoms until first responders arrived.
Walters’ report confirmed what had been previously reported by ESPN. When conditioning drills began at 4:15pm there were water hydration stations placed around the practice fields. Those drills – 10 110 yard sprints – saw McNair finish the first seven in normal time but struggle through the final three. While his teammates helped the former McDonogh star finish his drills he was admonished by football trainer Wes Robinson who told them to, “drag his ass across the field” as he began laboring.
Under Robinson’s watch, Maryland’s training staff didn’t begin treating McNair until almost 5 p.m. They never immersed him in the cold tubs, instead choosing to try and cool him down by using cold towels all over his body since they feared drowning because of his size. The trainers didn’t begin any form of aggressive treatment for approximately 30 minutes after his symptoms began which progressively got worse.
“Failure to rapidly recognize exertional heat illness is a concern” the report said. “The lack of recognition and assessment of the severity of the event delayed cooling the patient in a timely manner.”
The report doesn’t exclude head coach D.J. Durkin from culpability, yet it doesn’t hold him accountable either. The professional fate of Durkin and Robinson still hang in the balance as they remain on administrative leave while another examination by the Board of Regents continues into what ESPN dubbed a “toxic culture.”
However, as these investigations continue, the optics continue making the University look bad. The wait for the resolution only compounds the damage when it appears they must move on from Durkin sooner than later.