Everyone has known for a while that playing football has the potential to cause substantial physical injuries, but in recent years more and more attention has been given to the mental health of football players as concussions and their consequences have become a point of focus. The NFL has changed rules in recent years to cut down on concussions and improve player safety, but the health risks of football grow scarier every time we learn more. Now, we may — and I stress may, because a few decisions of individuals don’t necessarily make a trend — be seeing those risks turn even high-profile players away from the game.
In the past week, three NFL players under 30 years old — Steelers’ LB Jason Worilds, Titans’ QB Jake Locker, and 49ers’ LB Patrick Willis — announced their retirements, all for different specific reasons but also all citing other priorities and interests. Today, a fourth joined them, Chris Borland of the 49ers, and he explained that he is retiring because of health concerns. He is 24 years old and has only played in the NFL for one season. He spoke with ESPN:
“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told “Outside the Lines.” “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”
“I feel largely the same, as sharp as I’ve ever been, for me it’s wanting to be proactive. I’m concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it’s too late. … There are a lot of unknowns. I can’t claim that X will happen. I just want to live a long healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”
Borland also mentioned that his decision is final and he has no intention of ever changing his mind.
This is a really admirable move by Borland, and one that is going to bring an immense amount of attention to the NFL because of his youth and relative health. It was certainly a difficult decision — I can’t imagine turning down millions and millions of dollars while still being healthy and incredibly successful on the field. It’s a preventative measure that he is taking, as opposed to waiting until it’s too late to make a move, which is what makes such an eye-popping event.
Ultimately, it’s great to see a player really value his health (I’m not saying that everyone should quit football, it’s definitely a personal decision) and the best part is that Borland thoroughly did his research and plans to stick to his decision. Good for you, Chris Borland.