The family members of John Thomas Davis, who was a lineman at Southern Methodist University from 1955-59, has filed a lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, accusing the organization of not protecting him from the long-term effects of concussions.
Davis was posthumously diagnosed with Stage IV Traumatic Encephalopathy and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2001.
“The NCAA failed to initiate policies or rules necessary to protect John Thomas Davis in the face of long-standing and overwhelming evidence regarding the need to do so,” the lawsuit states.
“We believe since the early 1900s the NCAA had sufficient information about the risks of brain damage from playing college football,” Gene Egdorf, the attorney representing the family, said. “And it didn’t take appropriate actions to help the players or warn the players.”
Egdorf said that he will call witnesses that were Davis’ teammates at the time to speak about the culture of the football program.
“He played college football” Egdorf said. “There’s no doubt he got the CTE from playing college football. And he wasn’t warned or told about what the NCAA knew or should have known those risks.”
The lawsuit argues that the NCAA was negligent in failing to protect Davis following concussive blows and that “there was no rule prohibiting players from targeting the heads of other players with their helmets or leading with their heads when tackling or blocking.”
In 2018, the NCAA settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of Greg Ploetz, a former University of Texas football player.
The family of Ploetz were also represented by Egdorf. The NCAA didn’t admit liability in the Ploetz case and told ESPN that they would “continue to defend the Association vigorously in all jurisdictions where similar unwarranted individual cases are pursued.”
Although the NCAA wasn’t found directly responsible in court in the Ploetz case, the fact that they settled means there may be a trend where more former athletes and their families come forward.
“Now that there’s more awareness,” Egdorf said. “Now that there are more brains being studied by the experts at Boston University, we’re getting more information to show that there are athletes who had CTE. I think that’s going cause the explosion, if you will, in cases. Because we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”