Cause of Death Released on Former GVSU QB Cullen Finnerty

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finnerty deadGRAND RAPIDS,Mich — According to an autopsy report the cause of death of Cullen Finnerty was pneumonia, which was complicated by oxycodone toxicity and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that complicated his condition.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease often linked to past concussions or head injuries.

Finnerty went fishing in Lake County but never returned. His body was found two days later near his boat.

Finnerty was a quarterback at GVSU for Division II national championships in 2003, 2005 and 2006. His 51-4 record when he left GVSU made him the winningest quarterback in NCAA history, from any division.

Grand Vally State University issued the following statement below:

Grand Valley State statement:

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the family of Cullen Finnerty.

Only one time during his collegiate play at Grand Valley did Cullen suffer a concussion which was determined to be mild.  He was removed from the game shortly after halftime and did not play again that day.  He was thoroughly checked by doctors and was later cleared for play in a subsequent game.

Grand Valley State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics Concussion Management Plan

In accordance with NCAA Executive Committee Policy (4/29/10), the Grand Valley State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has established the following Concussion Management Plan. Any student athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion shall be removed from practice or competition and evaluated by an athletics health care provider with experience in the evaluation and management of a concussion. Additionally, student athletes diagnosed with a concussion will not return to activity for the remainder of that day. Medical clearance shall be determined by the team physician or their designee according to this plan. All GVSU student athletes will be required to sign a statement in which they accept the responsibility for reporting their injuries and illnesses to the institutional medical staff, including signs and symptoms of concussions. During the review and signing process, the student athlete will be presented with educational material on concussions.

Emergency Action Plans

Emergency action plans are posted in each of the 4 athletic training rooms on campus. There is a specific plan for each practice and competition venue used by all varsity athletic teams. The emergency action plans outline the procedure for handling catastrophic injuries and illnesses, including but not limited to concussions, heat illness, spine injury, cardiac arrest, respiratory distress (including asthma) and sickle cell trait collapses. These plans will be reviewed and practiced with athletic health care staff and coaches annually.

Health Care Plan

The GVSU Athletic Training Staff will follow the protocol established in the Medical Bill Payments Policy to ensure all student athletes have equitable and appropriate access to team physicians and affiliated consulting physicians as needed for injuries and illnesses incurred during participation in varsity intercollegiate athletics. The final decision on athletic participation for an injured or ill student athlete is made by the team physician (or designee) in all cases of injury or illness.

Baseline Testing

All student athletes in the following sports will have a baseline assessment recorded: Baseball, basketball, diving, football, lacrosse, pole vaulting, soccer and softball.

These assessments will include a baseline ImPact test.

Treatment of Suspected Concussions

Any student athlete who is suspected to have sustained a concussion or who is exhibiting or complaining of concussion-like symptoms, will be evaluated using standard concussion management protocols, including taking a history, evaluation for possible spinal injury associated with the possible concussion, evaluation of mental status, balance, possible presence of amnesia (anterograde or retrograde) and cognitive function. Anyone found to have the symptoms of a concussion will be referred to a team physician, and will be followed up with at regular intervals until the activity they were participating in has finished for the day. They will be sent home with instructions listing signs and symptoms and what to do if their condition worsens. Instructions will be given to a room mate or other responsible party that can monitor and follow the instructions. They will be given a time to report for follow up the next day. Follow up ImPact testing will be done on day 2, 7 and 14. In addition, SAC (Sideline Assessment for Concussions) and BESS (Balance Error Scoring System) testing (or reasonable facsimiles of those tests) will be used during the first 4 days.

Under the direction of the team physician, the student athlete, once asymptomatic for at least 24 hours, will be directed by a member of the athletic training staff to perform a simple exercise progression with a step wise process. They will be progressed as long as they continue to be asymptomatic during and after exertion. After completing the post concussion exercise program, the student athlete will follow up with the team physician to determine clearance to return to their sport.

Student athletes with significant concussion or post concussion diagnosis may be referred for neuropsychological follow up at the Mary Free Bed Outpatient Brain Injury and Post Concussion Clinic.

The treatment and return to play progression will be documented in the student athletes’ medical record. This will also include medical clearance notes from the team physician, when appropriate.

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6 comments

  • K-Dude

    Yet another concussion story resulting in injury & death. Thank you media for continuing to attempt to destroy the great game of football!!!

  • Chet Walker

    Don't blame the media for destroying football!

    The article says: "The Medical Examiner also studied Finnerty’s brain and says chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) complicated his condition."

    Who do you want to blame? The Medical Examiner??

    The facts are facts.

    And don't forget that it is the MEDIA that gives you football on your television and computer.

  • Kiwi

    Oxy toxicity seems to be minimalized in the story. Dear God, could the all-American football player have had an issue with abusing oxy?????

    • The Guns

      have the same concern. seems like fox17 is selectively keying in on certain attributes to the story. Unbiased Fox, way to go on this one.