Press Release

June 21, 2023
Cardin, Mfume Bill Aims to Protect Student-Athletes from Dangerous Heat Illness
The McNair family has channeled the pain of their loss into a mission to help coaches, student athletes, and parents identify symptoms of heatstroke and heat-related illnesses.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced legislation today, the Jordan McNair Student-Athlete Heat Fatality Prevention Act, which would require collegiate athletic programs to create heat emergency action plans and to practice those plans to protect student-athletes from life-threatening heat-related illnesses. Heat is the leading climate-related cause of deaths, and rising temperatures pose a serious risk to those participating in outdoor sports. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is an original cosponsor of the Senate bill. Congressman Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.-7) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Jordan McNair’s death was avoidable. We owe it to him and his family to do everything we can to ensure such a tragedy is not repeated,” said Senator Cardin. “Awareness of the warning signs, coupled with strong and consistent emergency procedures are important for keeping our student-athletes healthy, especially in extreme temperatures. I thank the McNair family for channeling the pain of their loss into a mission to help coaches, student athletes, and parents identify symptoms of heatstroke and heat-related illnesses. The University of Maryland has taken important steps in line with this legislation, and we want to ensure that other athletic programs do the same.”

“The loss that Jordan McNair’s family has endured will never fully heal, but we salute their efforts to prevent another family from suffering a similar a tragedy. This bill will honor Jordan’s memory by preparing college and university athletic programs to effectively recognize and address heat-related illness. I’m thankful for the McNair family’s work to turn their pain into purpose, and I stand by them in their efforts to improve student athletes’ health,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“The safety of college athletes must always be of the utmost importance, and we cannot neglect that these students are someone’s children. As all parents can relate to, the well-being of our children will always be a constant worry as they venture on to become young adults,” said Congressman Mfume. “I hold a special place in my heart for all student-athletes and feel as though we have not been as attentive to their vulnerabilities as we ought to be. We can, and should, do more as a society for student-athletes other than just cheer them on from the stands. This legislation, honoring Jordan’s story, is my effort to give parents and players alike the peace of mind that their health is accounted for during their journey in collegiate sports,” he concluded.

Five years ago, Jordan McNair collapsed from heatstroke during a workout of the football team at the University of Maryland, College Park. Delays in recognizing, diagnosing and treating McNair’s symptoms led to his tragic death. Since this report, UMD has fully implemented the recommendations of an independent report on the circumstances of McNair’s death. The school has established procedures that would make them fully compliant with the requirements of the Jordan McNair Student-Athlete Heat Fatality Prevention Act. The legislation would require all colleges to do the same.

The bill includes recommendations from and has been endorsed by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. The legislation:

  • Requires institutes of higher education participating in athletic associations or conferences to develop and implement a venue-specific heat illness emergency action plan, which must include a plan for the operation and use of automatic external defibrillators (AED) and cold-water immersion equipment, and report on their compliance to the Secretary of Education and to the authorizing committees
  • Requires institutes of higher education to communicate the plan by posting summary materials from the plan in all athletic venues, posting the plan on a public website, disseminating the plan to local emergency responders, and rehearsing the plan in-person on an annual basis
  • Recommends that plans require an AED to be accessible within three minutes of all athletic facilities and that plans include guidelines formulated by the Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature Index, an expert-recommended test for assessing the risk of heat stress