Widow of former college football player says husband suffered head trauma and asks NCAA for $55 million

Lawyers asked a jury on Monday to award $55 million to the widow of a former University of Southern California football player in a landmark case accusing the NCAA of failing to protect him from the repeated head trauma that led to his death.

Matthew Gee, a powerhouse player who was on the 1990 Rose Bowl team, suffered countless blows that caused permanent brain damage and abuse of cocaine and alcohol that led to his eventual death at the age of 49, his attorneys said in closing arguments. His widow, Alana Gee, was in the courtroom Monday.

In the first case of its kind to go to a jury, attorneys told members of the Los Angeles Superior Court that the NCAA, the governing body for US athletics, had known about the effects of head trauma in the sport since the 1930s but failed to do so. Contracts to notify players of risks or establish rules to protect players.

“You can’t bring Matt back, but you can say what the NCAA did to him was wrong,” said attorney Bill Horton. “Put this on the NCAA’s radar. … That’s the only way they’ll ever listen.”

An NCAA attorney said Gee experienced sudden cardiac death caused by long-term high blood pressure and acute cocaine intoxication. He discussed a host of other serious health problems Gee suffers from, which he said were not related to football.

“The NCAA had nothing to do with the things that so tragically took Mr. G’s life,” said attorney Will Steot.

The issue of concussions in sports, and soccer in particular, has been front and center in recent years as research explores more about the long-term effects of repeated head trauma on problems ranging from headaches to depression and, in some cases, the onset of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. illness.

The month-long trial is one of hundreds of death and personal injury lawsuits that college football players have filed against the NCAA in the past decade.

But Gee’s is only the second case to go to trial with allegations that head injuries led to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. The 2018 Texas case was settled after a few days of trial.

Gee was one of five midfielders in the 1989 Trojan squad who died before reaching the age of 50. As with teammate and NFL star Junior Seo, who committed suicide in 2012, Ji’s brain was posthumously examined at Boston University’s Chronic Encephalopathy Center and found to have CTE.

CTE is associated with memory loss, depression, and progressive dementia. It can only be diagnosed after death.

Boston University found CTE in the brains of 110 of its 111 former NFL players and 48 of its 53 former college players, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hall of Famers have been diagnosed postmortem including Ken Stabler and Mike Webster.

In his senior year, Gee was the team captain and led USC in tackles, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.

Ji married Alana, his college sweetheart, after graduating in 1992, and they lived a normal life for 20 years. They raised three children while he ran a successful insurance company in Southern California.

But things took a turn in 2013, when he began to lose control of his emotions, according to the lawsuit. He became angry, confused and depressed. He drank heavily. He told the doctor that he had forgotten whole days.

Gee’s attorneys said CTE, which is found in athletes and veterans who have suffered repeated traumatic brain injuries, was an indirect cause of death because head trauma has been shown to enhance drug use.

Steot said the wrongful death issue is about what caused Gee’s death and not whether CTE was present, which he said remains a hypothesis.

After years of denial, the NFL acknowledged in 2016 that Boston University research showed a link between football and encephalopathy. The league has agreed to settle head injury cases involving 20,000 retired players offering up to $4 million in CTE-related deaths. Payments are expected to exceed $1.4 billion over 65 years for six qualifying terms.

In 2016, the NCAA agreed to settle a concussion lawsuit, paying $70 million to monitor medical conditions for former collegiate athletes, $5 million for medical research, and payments of up to $5,000 to individual players claiming injuries.

Stott said Gee never reported a concussion and said in a request to play with the Raiders after graduation that he never passed out.

He said the NCAA was put in the position of having to defend itself from allegations it was not aware of at the time, noting that CTE was not discovered until 2005. He said there was nothing the NCAA could have done that would have kept Gee alive. today.

“You can’t hold the NCAA responsible for something no one has reported after 40 years,” said Steot. “The plaintiffs want you in a time travel machine. We don’t have one… in the NCAA. Not fair.”

He was handled safely without the use of his head, and there were no signs of head injuries, said Stott, a former NFL official who reviewed all available tapes of USC’s games.

Horton responded that at the time Gee played, the NCAA did not share what it knew about the medical risks of recurrent head injuries, did not prevent players from returning to the court after injuries, and did not limit the number of workouts despite recommendations. To do so, Horton said.

When he shows pictures of Jie at his wedding holding his young daughter in a pink dress, Horton chokes, stating that Tuesday will be Jie’s birthday.

“They made a judgment… so he didn’t die for nothing,” Horton said. “So every 18-year-old who plays football will know the dangers of the game they are playing.”

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