One of the NFL’s most promising players announced his retirement from football Monday because of fears of long-term brain damage, and referenced Richmond alum Ray Easterling as one of the cautionary tales that inspired his retirement.
Chris Borland, 24, a former linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, announced his retirement after his rookie season.
"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,” Borland told Outside the Lines.
Webster, Duerson and Easterling all suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.
Easterling, who played football at the University of Richmond before playing eight seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, committed suicide in his Richmond home in 2012. CTE made him paranoid and depressed after his retirement.
"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."
Borland consulted with friends, family, concussion researchers and teammates before finalizing his decision.
"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 told Outside the Lines.
As of September 2014, the brains of 76 of 79 former NFL players examined showed signs of CTE.
With increasingly more information available on the damaging effects of football, the NFL may see more players walk away from the game prematurely. Borland follows linebacker Jason Worilds, 27, quarterback Jake Locker, 26, and linebacker Patrick Willis, 30, as the fourth surprise player to retire in the last two weeks. Willis, one of the best players of his generation and the man Borland was expected to replace in the 49ers lineup, also decided his body had had enough punishment after just eight seasons.
“It’s my health first,” Willis said at a press conference.
Easterling’s widow, Mary Ann, was glad that Borland did what he felt was best for his health.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
“I’m comforted by the fact that Ray’s sacrifice made a difference in Chris Borland’s life,” Mary Ann said. “He saw what happened to these other players… and he made a wise decision.”
Contact reporter Danny Heifetz at email@example.com
Support independent student media
You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.Donate Now