by Chloe Clifford, Staff Writer
Many Americans find football to be a focal point of their autumn and winter, with Thanksgiving pick-up games to fantasy leagues. While football may be a positive hobby for some, for others it is a terrifying reminder of what caused their loved ones to change forever. This is especially true for those like Alana Gee, who may have lost her husband to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (“CTE”).
CTE is a newly discovered disease that can only be diagnosed through an autopsy. CTE is a progressive brain condition that is caused by continuous blows to the head and repeated concussions. It is most commonly associated with sports such as boxing and football, as well as with military veterans. While there is not much known about the condition, there are some common symptoms. Common symptoms include short term memory loss, difficulty thinking, mood changes, confusion and disorientation, slurred speech, and even Parkinson’s Disease.
In the last several years, there has been increased media reporting on those who were found or suspected to have CTE, with one of the most famous cases being that of Aaron Hernandez. CTE has become a focal point, not only in the media but also in the courtroom.
For example, Gee is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association for the wrongful death of her husband, former University of Southern California linebacker, Matt Gee. Alana is claiming that the NCAA failed to protect her husband from repeated injury during his time playing football. The NCAA alleges that Matt Gee’s cause of death was instead the result of drug and alcohol abuse. This case is only the second CTE case to go to trial and may possibly be the first to go in front of a jury.
Matt Gee played for University of Southern California from 1988-1992. He briefly had a stint in the NFL but was cut by the Raiders during training camp, causing him to retire. After retiring, Matt appeared to lead a normal life. He married his college sweetheart, Alana, and they had three children together. His normal life began to change in 2013, when Matt began experiencing some alarming symptoms of CTE.  Matt experienced rage, depression, confusion, and could go days without remembering what happened. Gee died in his sleep on December 31, 2018. Following his death, Gee donated her husband’s brain to Boston University’s CTE center, where he was posthumously diagnosed with CTE.
There is expected to be a long list of witnesses in the case, including some who are very well known in the football community. Potential witnesses include NCAA President Mark Emmert, Dr. Omalu, the physician on which the film “concussion” was based, experts on head injuries and CTE, as well as former NCAA players and Matt’s former teammates.
The outcome of this case will have widespread impact not only for the Gee family but also for the NCAA. The NCAA could face major consequences from the outcome of this case, including major financial liability and an influx of other cases. Gee is not only requesting damages for her husband’s wrongful death but also for disgorgement, which would require the NCAA to give back all of the proceeds that it made as a result of their negligence. If Gee is successful, this would leave the NCAA on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in future lawsuits.
Many in the football community, and those in other CTE related fields, will be keeping an eye on this case and watching for the jury’s decision. For Gee to succeed, the jury must first find that her husband’s CTE was the result of playing college football and that it ultimately led to his death. The jury must also agree that Matt Gee’s CTE and medical issues were the result of the NCAA’s alleged negligence and not the potentially negligence actions of the University of Southern California or other organizations. If Gee is successful, the game of football could be changed forever.