The death of a former Texas football player could hold big ramifications for the future of college football and the NCAA.
On June 11, the widow of Greg Ploetz is schedule to appear in a Dallas court, marking the first time a case involving football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy will have reached trial.
Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann took a deep dive into the lawsuit, which you can read here.
Ploetz played defensive tackle for Texas during the height of the Darrell Royal era, from 1968 to 1971. Last year, Debra Hardin-Ploetz sued the NCAA on behalf of herself and her deceased husband, claiming that the NCAA unreasonably failed to protect Ploetz during his career.
Injuries sustained while playing football, she claims, caused the serious health problems Ploetz suffered from for most of his adult life. After his death, his brain was examined and classified as having Stage 4 CTE, the most severe level. Here are some details from a clinical report on how those problems worsened during his later years:
“[H]e became apathetic, disinhibited, exhibited compulsive behaviors, and his personal hygiene began to decline. He experienced paranoia and confusion, was psychiatrically hospitalized, and was in and out of respite homes due to aggressive behaviors. During his time in the respite homes, he was prescribed an array of medications that resulted in gait and motor problems … he could only respond to yes or no questions and was functionally dependent.”
The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in damages for negligence and wrongful death, on the assertion that the NCAA knew or should have known about the link between head injuries and long-term neurological issues.
McCann writes that the difference between this lawsuit and many of the others filed by former football players and their families in recent years is that all of the others resulted in settlements, dismissals or remain in litigation.
The fallout of a decision, writes McCann, “could influence how the NCAA designs game rules and protects student-athletes.”
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