Experts question Maryland's medical response in Jordan McNair death in Washington Post report

A Washington Post report suggests that D.J. Durkin’s Maryland football staffed failed to act quickly enough to save Jordan McNair. (AP)

A group of medical experts told the Washington Post that records indicate that deceased former Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair likely would have survived had staffers acted more quickly on the day he suffered heat stroke.

McNair died in June, two weeks after suffering heat stroke during a team conditioning drill. McNair’s death has led to reports of a “toxic culture” around the Maryland football program that led to head coach D.J. Durkin and several members of his staff being placed on administrative leave.

Coach, trainers on hand during heat stroke placed on leave

Director of athletic training Steve Nordwall, assistant athletics director for sports performance Rick Court and head football athletic trainer Wes Robinson, all present when McNair suffered heat stroke, were placed on leave alongside Durkin. Robinson was alleged to have yelled “Drag his ass across the field” when McNair had difficulty standing while trying to run sprints. 

The experts who spoke with the Washington Post examined hospital and medical responders’ records on McNair and concluded that, based on those records, had Maryland staffers taken proper action to identify McNair’s symptoms and cool his body off, McNair likely would have survived.

The report also cautions that the experts analyzed the situation with limited information and did not have a full timeline of the day of McNair’s heat stroke when making conclusions. Maryland is involved in an external investigation and has not released its version of events.

Expert: Patients treated within 30 minutes have 100-percent survival rate

John Jardine, an emergency medical physician and chief medical officer of the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, told The Post that following proper protocol in a medical situation like McNair’s has resulted in a 100-percent survival rate.

“For patients with exertional heatstroke, time is of the essence,” Jardine said. “We know if you get a patient’s temperature down within 30 minutes, we have reported 100 percent survivability.”

The Korey Stringer Institute was founded in 2010 in honor of former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer, who died in 2001 of heat stroke.

Expert: Cold-water immersion likely not used

Stringer Institute chief executive Douglas Casa speculated that Maryland staffers failed to use a technique called cold-water immersion in which a person who has suffered heat-stroke is completely immersed in a tub of cold water.

“If I were betting, they were not using cold-water immersion,” Casa said. “And if they did, they didn’t use it long enough to help him out, and something happened to stop the treatment.” 

The report stressed that Casa made his conclusions based on the records available, and that there is no knowledge outside of the people who were there about how Maryland staffers actually treated McNair’s condition.

Maryland declined comment for Monday’s Post report or to clarify if cold tubs were present on the day of McNair’s heat stroke.

Maryland disputed hospital timeline

Previously, Maryland released a statement disputing hospital record timelines that showed that McNair demonstrated heat stroke symptoms around 5 p.m. on May 29, more than 90 minutes before he received treatment to cool his body at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. 

“At no point before or during the external review has a student-athlete, athletic trainer or coach reported a seizure occurring at 5 p.m.,” the school said in a statement provided to The Post. 

The report goes into timelines of the May 29 event and details of proper protocol for diagnosing and treating heat stroke along with experts pointing to literature describing the proper response to a person suffering symptoms.

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