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How did Matthew Gee die? Widow asks for $55M in suit against NCAA following ex-USC player’s death

Boston University found CTE in the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players and 48 of 53 former college players
UPDATED NOV 22, 2022
Former USC linebacker Matthew Gee died on December 31, 2018, at age 49 (Concussion Legacy Foundation)
Former USC linebacker Matthew Gee died on December 31, 2018, at age 49 (Concussion Legacy Foundation)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Matthew Gee, a former USC football player, endured countless blows that caused permanent brain damage which led him to struggle with addiction abuse, and cognitive, mood, and behavioral issues that eventually killed him. Gee's family sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association and attorneys have asked the jury to award widowed Alana $55 million on Monday, November 21, in the landmark case accusing NCAA responsible for his death after they failed to protect Gee from repetitive head trauma. 

Gee was a hard-hitting linebacker player who won two Rose Bowls and was named captain of the 1991 Trojans team. On December 31, 2018, Gee died at age 49 and his death was ruled as sudden cardiac arrest. It was only after his wife donated his brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, that researchers diagnosed Gee with 'chronic traumatic encephalopathy' or 'CTE'. Attorneys in told Los Angeles Superior Court said the NCAA was aware of the effects of head trauma in sports since the 1930s but failed for decades to protect the players.


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”You cannot bring Matt back but you can say what the NCAA did to him was wrong,” attorney Bill Horton said. ”Put this on the NCAA’s radar. … This is the only way they will ever listen,” reported KX News. But the NCAA alleged that Gee experienced a sudden cardiac death brought on by long-standing hypertension and acute cocaine toxicity and other serious health problems. ”The NCAA had nothing to do with the things that tragically took Mr. Gee’s life,” attorney Will Stute said.

Gee was one of five linebackers on the 1989 Trojans squad who died before turning 50. But Gee’s is only the second case to go to trial with allegations that blows to the head led to CTE, a degenerative brain disease. CTE is associated with memory loss, depression, and progressive dementia and can only be diagnosed after death. Hundreds of wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits were brought by college football players against the NCAA in the past decade. Boston University found CTE in the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players and 48 of 53 former college players, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Matthew Gee's family's testimony

Matthew Gee with his wife Alana and his three children (Credit: Concussion Legacy Foundation)

Gee married his college sweetheart, Alana after graduating in 1992, and they lived a normal life for 20 years. The pair had three children and Gee ran a successful insurance company in Southern California. But their happiness was cut short after things took a downturn around 2013 when he began to lose his temper and became confused and depressed. He also started heavy drinking and the use of cocaine. He told a doctor that days would go by without him being able to recall what happened, reported the source.

On November 1, the children of the former USC linebacker told the jury how his personality changed before his death. Daughter Malia and son Tanner recalled their dad being confused, violent, and even abusive toward them, in a way they never saw him act before. "I would have considered him my best friend since the day I was born," emotional Tanner said. In one incident, Tanner had to meet his dad at a gas station but after being kept waiting for 10 to 15 minutes, Gee was enraged with anger and struck Tanner. "He struck me in the face two or three times," Tanner testified. "He had never been physical with me. It made zero sense," reported Court House.

Tanner said his father grew paranoid and delusional by the day. Gee would keep a shotgun by his bed and speak of someone being "after him." Once, he mentioned seeing his brother's long-dead wife walking down the hallway. Another time, while watching football on television, Matt began to grow irritated at one team's defense and started to blame Tanner. Gee's health worsened over time and he drastically lost weight. "He looked terrible," Tanner testified. "He would always tell me he was gonna die soon. He would say something was wrong with his head. He didn’t know what. He said he was going crazy, like Junior Seau."

Seau was a former teammate of Matt Gee's at USC, a linebacker who went on to have a remarkable 19-year career in the National Football League. Seau died in 2012 after shooting himself in the chest. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (part of the National Institutes of Health), Seau's brain had definitive signs of CTE. His family sued NCAA a case which was settled in 2018.

"His brain was wired, he was buying Amazon packages every day," Malia said. "He would randomly buy me makeup or stuff for soccer. He just bought things every day." "He got irritated all the time. It was so out of character. He would yell at me a lot, yell at my brothers. Just for nonsense." Malia said she was "very relieved" after her father's diagnosis after his death. "I knew there was something going on. He knew there was something going on. We all knew that that’s what it was."