A recent wrongful death lawsuit filed against the NCAA alleging a former linebacker at San Diego State University who went on to play for San Diego Chargers died as a result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of trauma suffered in contact sports, could have implications that go beyond the NCAA, an attorney with an NFL player representation agency said.
In the suit filed Aug. 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Sarah Staggs claims her husband, Jeffrey Staggs, was “injured, incapacitated and died” as a result of the NCAA’s “reckless disregard for his health” while he played at SDSU in 1965 and 1966, according to posting on Fox 5 San Diego's website. Jeffrey Staggs was 70 when he died in 2014.
This lawsuit stands to impact not only the NCAA but also the sport of football itself, Randy Fisher, chief legal officer for MBK Sports Management said.
"Our perspective is always to support the players and their health and safety," Fisher told the Northern California Record.
Randy Fisher of MBK Sports Courtesy of LinkedIn
Fisher said that many of these lawsuits are related to older players who are now passing away and their trauma is only discovered and diagnosed postmortem as CTE.
"Historically, there had been studies on concussion but those studies certainly were not well known or disseminated to coaches and especially players at that time, and that disconnect is the crux of these lawsuits," Fisher said. "Football is a great game, it's a violent game, and historically player safety was not properly considered."
Fisher said one of the issues making the situation more challenging is that players themselves did not want to be perceived as weak and so they would go to great lengths to stay on the field and continue playing.
"That most likely perpetuated where we are with health and safety," Fisher said. "I will say there has been great medical research and progress as well as education now properly disseminated to coaches, trainers and players. Fortunately, these types of lawsuits have also removed the stigma for former and even current players who previously didn't want to come forward with their injuries for fear of being perceived as weak."
Fisher explained the NFL and the NCAA are taking the health and safety of players more seriously and have made great efforts to provide the medical research, studies and education directly to the players.
"Changes have also been made to the how the game is played with certain rules changes and proper emphasis being placed on tackling techniques," Fisher said. "We've seen great strides even with youth football, through initiatives like USA Football’s ‘Heads Up Football’ program.' Even with all of these efforts, there is always room for improvement for the players' health and safety."