Family members of former USC fullback Douglas MacKenzie and former UCLA running back Rodney Stensrud have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the NCAA alleging that the sport’s governing body did not properly inform college football players about the risks of head injuries and impact traumatic brain injuries such as concussions could have on their long-term quality of life. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, these are among the first in a wave of lawsuits expected against the NCAA and its conferences and universities in the coming months.
Football Players and CTE
MacKenzie played for USC from 1978 to 1981 and worked in construction after his football career until a stroke in 2016 limited his activity. He died in February at age 59. The complaint, filed by his mother, states he suffered from memory loss, delirious periods, tremors, and depression. Stensrud played for UCLA from 1969 to 1972 and Long Beach State from 1972 to 1973. He worked as a high school sociology teacher after his football career.
However, the lawsuit filed by his widow, states that in his mid-40s, Stensrud became emotionally volatile, forgetful, paranoid, and suffered from hallucinations. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 55 and died in 2011 when he was only 60. An autopsy revealed he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that has been discovered in more than 100 deceased former football players who had suffered numerous concussions during the course of their careers.
Two other families from San Diego of ballplayers for San Diego State and the Chargers respectively also filed similar lawsuits after losing their loved ones to CTE. These wrongful death lawsuits come after NCAA settled with former University of Texas lineman Greg Ploetz’s widow and filed a similar lawsuit.
Justice for Victims’ Families
Members of these players’ families have told the Times that their lawsuits are not only about compensation but that they’ve filed them “to make a difference.” A number of football players and their families have been coming out with their stories about developing brain disease later in life. They want to ensure that student-athletes are made aware of the risk of concussions and the repercussions they can have later in life.
Our traumatic brain injury lawyers hope these families get their day in court and justice for the loss of their loved ones. We too hope these lawsuits will make a difference in the way sporting authorities operate. Players, both students and professionals, must be warned about the danger of concussions and should receive timely rest and treatment during their careers.