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Widow of former SDSU, Chargers player Jeff Staggs sues NCAA over his death

Posted: 12:08 PM, Aug 28, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-28 19:08:52Z

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Lawsuits were filed against the NCAA over the deaths of four former college football players, including a former San Diego State and Chargers player.

The wrongful death lawsuits all claim the four men died as a result of the brain disease CTE, which stemmed from concussions suffered during their playing careers.

Lawsuits were filed on behalf of football players Jeff Staggs; Rodney Stensrud, of UCLA; Doug MacKenzie, of USC; and Cullen Finnerty, of Grand Valley State.

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In a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Sarah Staggs claims her husband “was injured, incapacitated, and died as a result of [the NCAA’s] reckless disregard for his health and safety as a San Diego State University student-athlete.”

Staggs played linebacker at SDSU from 1965-1966, suffering “numerous serious concussions” during his time at the school.

Staggs later went on to play in the NFL from 1967-1974, spending time with the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Cardinals.

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According to the complaint, Staggs began suffering from memory loss, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and other health problems years after his playing career ended.

Despite the changes and advances made when it comes to player safety, the NCAA “implemented these (still deficient) policies far too late for Mr. Staggs,” the complaint said.

Staggs died of arrhythmia in 2014 at age 70. An examination of his brain found that he had been suffering from CTE.

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Rodney Stensrud died at age 60 in 2011, while Doug MacKenzie died in February 2018 at age 59. While an autopsy confirmed Stensrud suffered from CTE, results on MacKenzie’s brain examination are pending.

Cullen Finnerty was only 30 years old when he was found dead after disappearing during a 2013 fishing trip. A postmortem exam of Finnerty’s brain showed he had been suffering from CTE.

Finnerty was the winningest quarterback in NCAA football history, playing for the GVSU Lakers from 2003-2007.