Chris Borland, 24, was just coming off an impressive rookie season with
the San Francisco 49ers, and looked to be making a name for himself in
the NFL. Sadly, for the 49ers, Borland announced his retirement a few
weeks ago, citing the harrowing concerns of repetitive head trauma as
his reason for stepping away from the game.
“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.”
After discussing the decision with friends and family, Borland felt that
the knowledge he had gathered about the long-term effects of repetitive
trauma and neurodegenerative disease, in addition to his personal experiences
with head injuries, he no longer wished to play football. What makes this
decision so shocking stems from Borland’s breakthrough, rookie season,
and the likelihood he would have became an even more important player
for the 49ers in the coming season. But, after reading about the 70 former
players that have been diagnosed with progressive neurological disease
after their deaths due to the nature of repetitive head trauma, and the
rampant issues associated with former players, like depression and memory
loss, Borland could not justify continuing with the sport.
“I feel largely the same, as sharp as I’ve ever been. For me,
it’s wanting to be proactive,” Borland said. “I’m
concerned that if you wait ’til 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 would have earned around $500,000 this upcoming season as a player
of the 49ers, but money would not sway his decision. As someone who had
suffered two diagnosed concussions during his childhood, Borland felt
that his health was most important to him.
“I’ve thought about what I could accomplish in football, but
for me, personally, when you read about Mike Webster and Dave Duerson
and Ray Easterling, you read all these stories, and to be the type of
player I want to be in football, I think I’d have to take on some
risks that, as a person, I don’t want to take on.”
After last season, Borland had tests conducted to monitor his neurological
wellbeing, while consulting former players and physicians about his concerns.
Ultimately, Borland found the decision a “simple” one to make.
Although his actions will certain raise questions about the state of the
NFL and will likely face a share of derision, Borland must be commended
on knowing what was right for him and taking that difficult step forward.