Chris Borland is coming off a fine rookie season in which he tallied 107 combined tackles (84 solo, 23 assisted) and two interceptions. But the San Francisco 49ers won't get to see how their stud linebacker fares in his sophomore season.
On Monday, the 24-year-old Borland told ESPN's Outside the Lines that he is retiring due to serious concerns about the effects of repetitive head trauma. Borland said he made the decision after speaking with concussion researchers, fellow football players, family and friends and conducting his own research.
"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. I feel largely the same, as sharp as I've ever been. For me, it's wanting to be proactive. 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."
Outside the Lines reports that upwards of 70 former NFL players have been diagnosed with neurological disease posthumously. Other studies show connections between repetitive head trauma in football and brain damage as well as memory loss, rage and depression. More than ever before there seems to be an awareness of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the debilitating brain disease which many football players are diagnosed with after their retirement.
Borland said he believes he suffered a concussion during the Niners' training camp but played through it because he wanted to make the team. By the fourh game of the preseason, though, he knew his football career would be short-lived, as he penned a letter to his parents expressing concerns about the long-term effects of head injuries.
Upon learning of Borland's shocking retirement at just 24, many of his NFL peers took to Twitter to react.
"No offense to anyone but I'm playing until I can't anymore. I love this game to [sic] much," tweeted Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Added St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long: "WOW. I loved Chris Borland's game but I can't fault him for calling it quits. His concerns are real. Still it takes a man to do the logical."
In retiring from football, Borland leaves what's left of the four-year, just-under $3 million contract that he signed with the 49ers. Borland said he plans on returning to school and possibly pursuing a career in sports management.
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(Photo: Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)