Tragedies such as those endured by the University of Maryland, where offensive lineman Jordan McNair suffered heatstroke during a preseason conditioning workout and died, have caused concern across the college sports landscape.
But The Sporting News reports that the NCAA is taking steps they hope will prevent such tragedies in the future.
The NCAA board of governors is reportedly mulling a measure aimed at preventing such non-traumatic, offseason workout-related deaths. It would provide guidelines to schools on acclimating student-athletes to conditioning after periods of lower-activity, discourage the use of intense workouts as punishment, and establish methods for properly diagnosing and treating heatstroke.
The NCAA has shared the policy with groups such as the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the Korey Stringer Institute, which hopes to prevent sudden deaths among athletes at all levels. Those groups, 14 in all, have been suggesting amendments. NCAA Sports Science Institute chief medical officer Brian Hainline told SN that about half of those groups have approved the document so far, and that he expects it’ll be enacted and published by late spring.
“It’s a huge leap forward,” Hainline told SN. “Because frankly, and we state this in the document, the vast majority of these non-traumatic catastrophic deaths and injuries are preventable.”
The move represents an important step, but it’s unclear how or even whether the NCAA will enforce its guidelines.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that 27 student-athletes — all football players — have died under non-traumatic circumstances since 2000. That figure does not include McNair, who died in June.
“Hopefully it’ll spur some dialogue and attention and cause some people to look at their programs,” Scott Anderson, who authored the study, told SN. “And you know I hear all the time, ‘The NCAA, all that is is a guideline. It has no teeth. There’s no punishment in there.’ And I understand that. But I also understand the power of a guideline.”
“It’s not a law or a bylaw or legislation or anything else like that, but there’s a standard of care, and medically we violate that at our own peril,” Anderson continued.