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Lawsuit Might Reveal What the NCAA Actually Knows About CTE Among Its Athletes

The lawsuit against the NCAA that was filed in the Dallas district of Texas has the potential to expose a lot about the controversial college sports organization.

The widow of former NCAA football player Greg Ploetz, who played for the Texas Longhorns, filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in court last year. The claim she filed against the organization is similar to the now famous class action concussion lawsuit brought against the NFL by a group of players.

In her lawsuit, Debbie Ploetz argues that her late husband died in 2015 due to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which she claims the NCAA is liable for. Her complaint says that the NCAA is liable for her husband’s death because the organization knew or should have known of the link between sustaining repeated blows to the head and the development of neurological diseases. Her lawsuit claims that the NCAA failed in its duty to educate Greg about the risks of CTE.

Ploetz v. NCAA

A trial date was initially scheduled for January 22, 2017, after the NCAA attempted to change the location of the trial. However, their request was unsuccessful. The proceedings for the case then moved to the discovery phase where attorneys from both sides exchange information to prepare legal arguments.

Because it felt the original discovery order gave too much to Ploetz’s counsel, the NCAA requested the Texas Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for a writ of mandamus to limit the opposing council’s discovery. On March 1st, a ruling was handed down that upheld the original order, with the exception of one point. The only thing that the NCAA can exclude from discovery is documentation that can reveal an injury not caused by blows to the head. Other than this exception, Ploetz’s attorneys can access internal documents relating to sports injuries that were suffered by any NCAA athlete in any sport in the past 67 years.

Why Did the NCAA Want to Limit Discovery?

Gathering and organizing every communication from NCAA personnel that is related to injured athletes from 1950 onward will take a significant amount of time and will come at a great expense for the NCAA. But more importantly, the discovery can reveal statements and policies that the organization does not want to be made public.

The discovery decision was a huge win for Ploetz’s lawyers. This case will be significant if it ends up going to trial for many different reasons. It can potentially be the first CTE case to make it all the way to being heard in court. Previous CTE case attempts have resulted in settlements or had CTE removed from the case for other neurological disorders.

The NCAA’s stance on the connection between CTE and sports like football and ice hockey will be made public during Dr. Hainline’s deposition. Dr. Hainline will have to closely navigate the narrow path between appearing to be aware of the research conducted on CTE while not giving any help to Ploetz’s case. With over seven decades’ worth of documentation, it is a real possibility that a single revelation could further damage the NCAA’s already declining reputation among the public.

Although the NCAA can still settle with Ploetz out of court, doing so can end up setting a precedent for liability that might open the door for many more lawsuits of a similar nature.

Have you or loved one suffered concussions or other types of brain injuries while playing NCAA sports in college? Contact our team of NCAA concussions lawyers to talk about your case today. We take on cases throughout the country and we are ready to fight for you.


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