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Report: NCAA considering new player-safety guidelines after workout deaths

Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA could enact a measure this spring designed to reduce the number of deaths stemming from offseason workouts, the Sporting News reported Friday.

The publication reported that the NCAA Board of Governors has given the first OK to the measure. It covers how member schools should ease student-athletes back into strenuous workouts after periods of reduced activity, details how to diagnose and treat heatstroke, and discourages harsh workouts as punishment.

The protocol currently is being reviewed by 14 medical organizations, including the Korey Stringer Institute and the National Athletic Trainers' Association. So far, about half of the groups have signed off on the proposed measure, and the remainder are reviewing it and are scheduled to deliver their reviews by next week, according to the report.

Stringer, a Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle, died of complications from heatstroke during training camp in 2001.

Brian Hainline, chief medical officer of the NCAA's Sports Science Institute, told the Sporting News that he anticipates the measure will be approved and enacted by late spring.

"It's a huge leap forward," Hainline said, "because frankly, and we state this in the document, the vast majority of these non-traumatic catastrophic deaths and injuries are preventable."

A 2017 study by Scott Anderson, the head athletic trainer at Oklahoma, detailed that 27 Division I athletes had died from non-traumatic causes since 2000. All were football players.

That number did not include Jordan McNair, the Maryland offensive lineman who died in June 2018 from heatstroke following critical errors made by the Terrapins' training staff. Head coach D.J. Durkin, the team's top strength coach and two trainers subsequently were fired after an investigation.

It hasn't been detailed yet how the NCAA would enforce the measure.

"Hopefully it'll spur some dialogue and attention and cause some people to look at their programs," Anderson said, per the Sporting News. "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. We've had to elevate our standard of care, our standard of how we train people. There needs to be absolutely some level of accountability and transparency."

Hainline said the NCAA should oversee health and safety matters and punish those schools that don't follow guidelines.

"I believe there should be consequences. I believe the membership and board of governors are moving in that direction," Hainline said. "The needle is shifting. ... I would say for an organization like (the NCAA), the needle is shifting rather rapidly. Others can say it's 100 years too slow."