San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland is retiring due to concerns over "the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma." He is just 24 years old.
According to ESPN, the 24-year-old told the 49ers of his decision on Friday. Borland said he first began to think about the possibility of retiring early during training camp last season. The rookie said he thinks he sustained a concussion, but played through it, partly because he wanted to make the team.
He said he made his decision after consulting with family members, concussion researchers, friends and current and former teammates, and studying what is known about the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease.
"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."
NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy Jeff Miller released the following statement in response to Borland’s retirement:
“We respect Chris Borland‘s decision and wish him all the best. Playing any sport is a personal decision.
“By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend. We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority.”
Last week, linebacker Patrick Willis retired because he thought the injuries he had sustained while playing football would keep him from playing at an "elite" level and he was worried about the quality of his life after football. Borland told ESPN that his former teammate's decision did not play a role in his retirement.
In a statement on Monday, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said Borland's decision was unexpected.
“While unexpected, we certainly respect Chris’ decision,” said Baalke. “From speaking with Chris, it was evident that 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.”
Borland told ESPN that he plans to go back to school to pursue a career in sports management. Borland has a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin.
ESPN notes that Borland is the fourth NFL player under the age of 30 to decide to retire in the past week.
- Sarah Barshop