NFL linebacker retires after one season over head trauma concerns

March 17, 2015 / FootballSports Medicine
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced Monday he is retiring from the league over concerns about the long-term effects of head trauma.

Borland was one of the NFL’s top rookies last season, starting eight games and recording 107 tackles. He was scheduled to make $540,000 next season.

San Francisco 49ers LB Chris Borland
San Francisco 49ers LB Chris Borland

It’s not the first time a player has left the sport over concerns about their health, but Borland is the most prominent player to exit the league because of the risks associated with repeated blows to the head.

Borland, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin, told ESPN he plans to return to school and may pursue a degree in sports management.

From ESPN:

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 know about the dangers?'”

He said the issue “gathered steam” as the season progressed. Before the fourth game of the preseason, at Houston, he wrote a letter to his parents informing them that he thought his career in the NFL would be brief because of his concerns about the potential long-term effects of 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 well-being going forward “and contribute to the greater research.” After thinking through the potential repercussions, Borland said the decision was ultimately “simple.”

He said part of the reason he waited until now to retire was he wanted to inform his family and friends, including a few 49ers teammates. He also said he wanted time to contact the researchers and study the issue further.

It can’t be easy walking away from an opportunity so few are given, but Borland appears to have put a lot of thought into this. His four-year contract was worth close to $3 million, but he determined that wasn’t worth risking his long-term health.

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