Jordan McNair Foundation clinic at McDonogh aims to educate student-athletes on heat-related illness

The Baltimore Sun

June 4, 2021

The Jordan McNair Foundation will continue providing awareness on heat-related illness and student-athlete safety when it holds its second health-and-wellness clinic Saturday.

The clinic, which will take place at McDonogh School from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., was introduced by the McNair Foundation in 2019 to honor the legacy of Jordan McNair, an offensive lineman at Maryland who died from heat-related complications in 2018 after a football workout.

The McNair Foundation hopes the clinic will educate athletes, parents and coaches on the importance of nutrition and hydration while teaching the proper ways to handle heat-related illnesses.

When Marty McNair, Jordan’s father, took his son to football camps across the country, he noticed parents were not getting educated on player safety. Marty, who co-founded the McNair Foundation, thinks the clinic will change that.

“Jordan was a lifelong athlete, and I never knew what equipment to [look for] or I never even knew what safety prevention equipment was,” Marty said. “We need to be educating parents on what safety equipment to look for.”

The daylong event will consist of two sessions. The first will be geared toward ages 7-13, while the second will feature football players 13-18. More than 40 Maryland football players have signed up to volunteer.

Athletes will learn stretching techniques and exercises from the Maryland football coaching staff. Guest speakers such as Dr. Yvette Rooks and Dr. Craig Bennett, members of the McNair Foundation Medical Advisory Board, will stress to the athletes the importance of listening to their bodies and understanding signs of heat illness.

“We get our early definition of who we are and how we’re going to live at a very young age,” said Rooks, the assistant director of the University Health Center for Sports Medicine at the University of Maryland. “If we can instill healthy tips at a young age, those will carry into adulthood.”

Parents and coaches will go to a separate field. Rooks will encourage coaches to stay up to date on their CPR training and understand the importance of nutrition and proper sleep. Parents will learn the proper questions they should ask athletic programs regarding their children’s safety.

“The whole point is to give the coaches some wellness tips, so they can pass that on to the young people that they’re working with,” Rooks said. “We’re going to give them some tidbits about how to identify a young player in distress, and to encourage their young people to limit social media because if they’re texting all night, they are not sleeping.”

Dr. Rod Walters, the lead investigator of McNair’s death, thinks there should be more camps centered on educating parents and coaches. “If you’re playing pickup basketball, soccer, whatever it may be, the coaches may be the only line of defense,” Walters said. “The parents need to make sure that things are going according to plan.”

Marty hopes to have 300 people (150 in the each session) attend. According to Marty, at least 200 attended two years ago. Temperature checks and other COVID-19 protocols will be in place.

“Coaches are just regular people, so we can’t leave it all up to them,” Marty said. “We have to educate parents first because they are the ones that are going to relay the message to the young people.”

Marty expects the audience to grow in the future, as foundation officials plan to shift from a football-centric clinic to inviting athletes and coaches from other sports such as lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and track and field.

“This is an outside injury so, it [could] happen in any sport,” Marty said, describing heat illness. “We want to empower coaches to be proactively preventive.”

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