San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland told ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Monday that he is retiring from the NFL due to concerns about potential brain injuries sustained through the repetitive head trauma of playing in the league. The issue of player safety when it comes to the long-term impact of concussions is on the rise in the NFL, but Borland’s decision ups the ante significantly, because the 24-year-old has played only one year in the league—14 games—and decided the health risk was too great to continue.
The third-round pick in the 2013 draft said he told the 49ers of his decision Friday. “He said he made his decision after consulting with family members, concussion researchers, friends and current and former teammates, and studying what is known about the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease,” according to the Associated Press. Borland’s concerns began almost from the moment he entered the league before the 2014 season.
Here’s more from the AP:
Borland said he began to have misgivings during training camp. He said he sustained what he believed to be a concussion stuffing a running play but played through it, in part because he was trying to make the team. "I just thought to myself, 'What am I doing? Is this how I'm going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I've learned and knew about the dangers?'" He said the issue "gathered steam" as the season progressed. Before the fourth game of the pre-season, at Houston, he wrote a letter to his parents, informing them that he thought that his career in the NFL would be brief because of his concerns about the potential long-term effects of the head injuries. After the season, Borland said, he consulted with prominent concussion researchers and former players to affirm his decision. He also scheduled baseline tests to monitor his neurological wellbeing going forward "and contribute to the greater research." After thinking through the potential repercussions, Borland said the decision was ultimately "simple."
Borland is walking away from the remainer of a four-year contract with the 49ers worth almost $3 million.