When one NFL player retires at age 24, it raises a few eyebrows. When you have numerous retirements of young NFL players, you may have a growing trend.
According to Bleacher Report, linebacker Chris Borland, age 24 and entering his second year of professional football, announced he would retire from the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL immediately due to his growing concern over long-term health issues sustained by NFL players.
“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland said. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”
Borland, who was drafted by the 49ers in 2014 in the third round from the University of Wisconsin, played eight games in his first season with the 49ers. He led the team with 107 tackles and was expected to assume a greater role with the 49ers after linebacker Patrick Willis retired after nine seasons in the NFL, all with the 49ers.
Borland did not have a history of injuries, including head trauma or concussions. He reported suffering a concussion in the 8th grade during a soccer game, and another concussion as a sophomore playing football in high school. He did, however, report “getting his bell rung” during the preseason last year, but played through it. This, according to Borland, was what started him towards his decision.
Forbes is reporting that Borland’s retirement highlights a growing trend of younger NFL players retiring very early in their careers. This year alone, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Jason Worilds (27) and Tennessee Titans’ Jake Locker (26) retired to avoid suffering possible injury. Worilds retired to devote more time to his religious endeavors.
In the last two years alone, at least four young NFL players have retired due to injuries; David Wilson, New York Giants (25, knees), Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings (27, concussions), Rashard Mendenhall, different teams (27, ACL and concussions), and in 2013, Johnny Knox, Chicago Bears (23, lower back). The difference is these players suffered severe injuries that limited their performance, leaving retirement as their only alternative. In Borland’s case, his retirement was to avoid suffering career-threatening injuries, thus hindering his quality of life when he got to his 40’s and beyond.
Borland stated his case in the most eloquent of terms.
“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.”
Now, Borland will rely on the history degree he earned from Wisconsin. But the more important question for the NFL is: will this be the beginning of a mass exodus of talent leaving before suffering long-term damage? Only time will tell.