Former San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland said Thursday that his decision to abruptly retire after one season in the NFL was prompted by two concerns: the inherent violence of the game and the unknown effects of that violence on his mind.
“I don’t think even the top neurologists truly understand the risks and the connections [between football and brain trauma],” he said during an interview with "CBS This Morning." "There’s just too much unknown for me, and there have been too many tragedies for me to be comfortable playing."
During the interview, CBS’ Gayle King brought up comments made earlier this week made in response to Borland's decision by Joseph Maroon. The NFL-affiliated doctor had said football-related concerns were becoming “over-exaggerated,” and even contended that the sport is safer than bicycling at the youth level.
Borland, 24, said there’s one big difference between football and riding a bike.
“The dangers [of football] are inherent to the game,” he said. “You can ride a bicycle and the act of riding a bicycle isn’t causing brain trauma. Yeah, you could fall, but that’s if something goes wrong. Everything could go right in football and it’s still dangerous.”
Asked by Charlie Rose about the money he’s walking away from, Borland said the ability to be there for family trumped any amount of wealth that the sport could provide:
ROSE: But there must have been people who said to you, you’re crazy. You are giving up so much money, so much fame, such a career.
BORLAND: Yeah. And I am, and I understand that, and maybe they’re right. I could be wrong. I hope I am. You know, however, that’s a difficult conversation to have with families who have lost loved ones – about how important it is to make a lot of money playing football.
Borland sent shockwaves through the NFL this week when he announced his decision to retire after a promising rookie season. A number of other 20-something NFL players have announced their decision to retire in recent weeks, including Jason Worilds, Jake Locker and Cortland Finnegan. But only Borland cited brain-related concerns as the reason why.
When Rose asked Borland about what changes could make football safe, Borland responded: "Brevity might be a good idea, just playing a smaller amount of time. But no, I think the game is inherently dangerous."
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