Student Well-Being

Do Early Football Retirements Dim Prospects for the Sport’s Future?

By Bryan Toporek — March 30, 2015 1 min read

Earlier this month, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that fears over long-term head trauma convinced him to retire after just one season in the NFL.

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told OTL. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

One week later, former Michigan offensive lineman Jack Miller followed in Borland’s footsteps, telling ESPN.com’s Joe Schad his recently announced decision to walk away from football was partially due to concern about the long-term impact of previous and future concussions.

“I know I’ve had a few and it’s nice walking away before things could’ve gotten worse,” Miller told Schad. “And yes, multiple schools have reached out. But I’m ready to walk away from it. My health and happiness is more important than a game.”

He also wasn’t ready to say whether he’d allow a future son of his to play football.

“Football has taught me so much about life, it’s incredible how much I’ve learned from it,” he told Schad. “That’s why my dad ultimately wanted me to play the game at a young age, then we found out I was good. But is it worth the potential injury? Really tough call.”

In a recent conversation with The MMQB’s Peter King, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed whether the league was concerned about Borland’s decision, in particular, being a harbinger of things to come in terms of players leaving the game earlier than anticipated.

“Players are making the decision whether to play or not play every day,” Goodell said. “They’ll be making it for a variety of reasons—injury, career...If they have all the facts and are making a personal judgment, you have to respect that. People are going to make those decisions based on, we hope, facts and whatever their personal judgment is.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.