Chris Borland Retires Out of Fear of Repetitive Head Trauma Injury

Chris Borland Retires Out of Fear of Repetitive Head Trauma Injury

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  • Chris Borland announced his retirement from the NFL on March 16, citing his fear of the long-term repercussions of repetitive head trauma.

Twenty-four-year-old San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced his retirement from the NFL on March 16, citing his fear of the long-term repercussions of repetitive head trauma.

First, it was Patrick Willis. Now it’s Chris Borland’s turn to retire from the NFL. 

Borland, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick (77th overall) of the 2014 NFL draft, made the announcement on March 16. San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke confirmed the news o the 49ers’ official website:

“While unexpected, we certainly respect Chris’ decision. From speaking with Chris, it was evident he had put a great deal of thought into this decision. He was a consummate professional from day one and a very well-respected member of our team and community. Chris is a determined young man that overcame long odds in his journey to the NFL and we are confident he will use the same approach to become very successful in his future endeavors. We will always consider him a 49er and wish him all the best.”

According to an ESPN Outside The Lines special on March 17, Borland is retiring because of his fears of the long-term repercussions of repetitive head trauma. He said he informed the team on Friday, March 13. 

Borland didn’t make a hasty decision. He told ESPN he consulted his family, concussion researchers, friends as well as former and current teammates. He also took it upon himself to research on the link between football and neurodegenerative disease. 

In a letter Borland wrote to his parents before the preseason game against the Houston Texans last season, he said he would have a short NFL career because of his fears of sustaining a serious head injury, per ESPN.

Borland made it clear to ESPN Outside The Line’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru the most important consideration in making this decision is his long-term health:

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health. 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 give any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.

“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.

“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 knew about the dangers?'”

Borland stepped in for the injured Patrick Willis after six games during the 2014 NFL season. When Willis announced his retirement due to lingering toe issues last week, Borland was expected to take his place, per ESPN. 

Borland told Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru that Willis’ retirement and the San Francisco 49ers organization had nothing to do with his decision.

Borland also emphasized he will no longer change his mind. Borland earlier suffered concussions as an eighth-grade soccer player and as a high school sophomore football player, per ESPN. 

Without Willis and Borland, CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maioco stresses San Francisco now has a gaping hole at middle linebacker. NaVorro Bowman, who missed the entire 2014 NFL season due to a knee injury, will be the primary option in 2015. The 49ers will also tap Michael Wilhoite to help out. 

The massive offseason shakeup for the 49ers continues. In addition to losing Willis and Borland, they also lost head coach Jim Harbaugh, running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati, linebacker San Skuta and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree is also expected to be on his way out, per The San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman. 

Now that his NFL career is over, he told ESPN he plans to return to his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, finish his degree and possibly establish a career in sports management. He signed a four-year deal, $3 million deal with the 49ers after they drafted him. 

Inman says Borland earned $1,037,436 of his rookie contract with the 49ers. This already includes a $617,436 signing bonus. He, Willis, Jason Worilds and Jake Locker all announced their retirement during the current NFL offseason. 

Borland recorded 107 tackles, 1.0 sack and two interceptions in his first and only NFL season, per ESPN stats

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