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Jury: NCAA not at fault in death of former USC player

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A Los Angeles jury on Tuesday rejected a claim by the former University of Southern California player’s widow that the NCAA had failed to protect him from repeated blows to the head that led to his death.

Matthew Gee, a linebacker on the team that won the Rose Bowl in 1990, who endured an estimated 6,000 hits that caused permanent brain damage and led to the cocaine-alcohol abuse that ultimately killed him at age 49, attorneys alleged. of his widow.

The NCAA said that had nothing to do with Gee’s death, which has been said to be sudden cardiac arrest caused by untreated high blood pressure and acute cocaine toxicity. A lawyer for the body that governs college sports in the United States said Gee suffered from many other problems unrelated to sports, including liver cirrhosis that would have eventually killed him.

The verdict could have wide-ranging ramifications for college athletes who blame the NCAA for head injuries.

Hundreds of wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits have been filed by college football players against the NCAA over the past decade, but Gee’s is the first to go to a jury alleging blows to the head caused him chronic traumatic encephalopathy. , a degenerative disease known by the acronym CTE.

Alana Glee had testified that the college sweethearts had 20 good years of marriage before her husband’s mental health began to deteriorate and he became angry, impulsive and depressed and began to overeat and abuse drugs. and booze.

Gee’s attorneys said CTE, which has been found in athletes and military veterans who sustained repeated head injuries, was an indirect cause of death because head trauma has been shown to promote substance abuse.

The NCAA said the case hinged on what it knew at the time Gee played, from 1988 to 1992, and not on CTE, which was first discovered in the brain of a deceased NFL player in 2005.

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