The University of Maryland indicated Wednesday that it has fulfilled the final recommendation from a panel of medical experts looking to improve the care of the school’s student-athletes after the June 2018 heatstroke death of football player Jordan McNair.
As reported by The Baltimore Sun, the university announced the appointment of Dr. Yvette L. Rooks as the lead team physician, director of the University Health Center’s newly created sports medicine department, which is operating outside the athletic department, and assistant director of the University Health Center. Rooks previously worked at the school for nearly two decades as a team physician, including the final eight years as head team physician, before departing in 2017 for Rutgers, where she served as chief medical officer for athletics.
“The University of Maryland is fortunate to have Dr. Rooks back on our team,” Dr. David McBride, the University Health Center director who will supervise Rooks, said in a statement. “She is a respected family physician and national leader in the field of sports medicine. We are pleased to have her and the sports medicine staff join the University Health Center as we seek to provide care for our student-athletes in a holistic context.”
The panel of medical experts led by Dr. Rod Walters, a former college athletic trainer and head of the sports medicine consulting firm Walters Inc., made 20 recommendations about how the school could implement the NCAA’s best medical practices. The hire of a head team physician to oversee all sports from outside the department was the last measure to be completed, and "a major step forward" for Maryland, according to Walters.
"I think having it under one roof on the College Park campus and report to the director of student health and vice president of student affairs is key," Rooks said. "I think it’s going to be a model that’s developing.”
Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said it was important to implement the final recommendation by the time teams in fall sports begin playing.
“We wanted to make sure we were thorough. The committee that was in place [to find a lead team physician and director of sports medicine] obviously did a good job,” Evans said. “The most important thing was being thorough and identifying the right candidate. We felt we needed to complete this last recommendation, which is going to put our program, our student-athletes in a better position as we continue to improve the health care we provide them.”
The other recommendations that were previously put in place since McNair’s death include having ice-water tubs or other cold-water-immersion devices available at all practices, having temperature readings done at each practice location, updating and posting emergency plans at all practice and team activity sites, and educating staff members on those emergency procedures.
On May 29, 2018, the 19-year-old McNair struggled to finish a conditioning test of 10 110-yard sprints. Athletic trainers failed to provide McNair with the type of cold-water-immersion therapy typically used to help lower the body temperature of apparent heatstroke victims. Experts said that could have saved his life, which ended June 13, 2018.