With Borland, NFL Concussion Controversy Reaching Forefront
The NFL is facing increased concerns over the safety of the sport from its own players. While the future of football is safe for the foreseeable future, there is modern day research and statistics conducted over concussions and repeated head trauma now available to players, and we are starting to see the direct aftermath.
Shortly after San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Patrick Willis announced his retirement last week because of concerns over his long-term health, his former linebacker teammate in Chris Borland abruptly did the same last night. The only thing is, Borland was set to enter just his 2nd NFL season and was one of the standout rookies in the NFL with seemingly at least a decade of football still left in him (via ESPN):
"“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told ESPN 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,” 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.”"
Whether this will only be a select bold few, who decide to ultimately hang up their cleats prematurely because of long-term health risks, or just the tip of the iceberg, remains to be seen.
However, the concerns of the players are real.
There is no doubt that playing professional football provides many of these young men with a luxury lifestyle that may not have been previously afforded to them; however, at what cost to their long-term health?
Anyone that has read League of Denial or performed any brief research of concussions in the NFL knows that such physical injuries can be debilitating to not only players, but to their families and friends long-term. The horrific stories of the lives of former players that were derailed in their post-playing days is now numerous (including just recently deceased Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau), and even Borland indicated that this heavily factored into his decision-making process:
"“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,” said Borland."
While Colts fans haven’t seen the true end result of his concussions, they have seen the repeated violent physical blows taken by a former wideout likeAustin Collie
to his head during his consequently shortened playing career with their team. It could end up eventually taking a negative toll on Collie’s life, currently a wide receiver for the B.C. Lions of the CFL, or it could end up impacting nothing at all.
If nothing else, it’s sparked perhaps just the latest controversy for the NFL. Except like others, this safety issue isn’t going away anytime soon due to the inherent violent physical nature of football: