Last week, in discussing the St. Louis Rams trading Sam Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles for Nick Foles, I suggested that Bradford consider not playing professional football any more because of all the concussions and head trauma he’s suffered due to the inability of the Rams offensive line to protect him. I wrote, “I were him, after seeing all the traumatic brain injury stories of NFL veterans whose gray matter was turned to oatmeal from the pounding they took on the field, I’d take my tens of millions earned in the last five years and go live the rest of my life in one piece while I still could.”
Last night, another young NFL player came to that conclusion. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired because he’s concerned about the long-term effects of having his head knocked around repeatedly on the field. Unlike Bradford, Borland isn’t a multi-millionaire from playing football — last year was his rookie season in the NFL — but at age 24, he already sees the groggy future and wants to avoid it.
This is not good news for the league, which still pretends that the game is safe. But, as Cindy Boren writes,
For now, sky-high TV ratings and the obscene revenues they generate continue and for every player that quits, a hundred more will take their place —- until children whose parents won’t let them play grow up and the pool of players shrinks precipitously. The real effects on the game might not be felt for a few more years, but they’re going to be devastating. “Obviously, guys will continue to play football,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit tweeted, “but I guarantee the Borland early retirement gets the attention of a lot of moms and youth football.”
The irony is that it will take several years to see the impact of the new focus on head trauma in the NFL, about the same amount of time it takes for former players to realize the impact all that contact had on their brains.