“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Chris Borland explained to Outside the Lines. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”
Formerly a healthy linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, Borland decided to end his career after a single season, shedding more light to the welfare of athletes.
“Borland is a trailblazer, but he’s not the NFL’s grim reaper. He is a messenger of the sport’s evolution, not its dissolution,” Christopher Gasper wrote for The Boston Globe.
Athletes deserve a choice, to decide whether the risks outweigh the incentives of competing. However, a player who chooses to end his career is not a hero. To say that Borland’s choice has begun a new era of football is dramatic. Previous NFL players knew that their decision to play would come with its own set of risks. Obviously, when a 400 pound human being collides with one’s frame, there will be consequences. But these athletes decided that the fiscal benefits were worth the possible health complications.
Health risks are present in innumerable professions. Police officers face danger each time they step on the streets. Secret service agents are prepared to step in front of a bullet. Even lab technicians could suffer health problems from harmful chemicals. NFL players are not alone in their plight, and these professionals are abundantly compensated; the average NFL salary in 2013 was $1.9 million, according to Monte Burke at Forbes.
“We’ve been working on the safety of our game throughout our history, with an incredible focus on it in my personal time as commissioner. … We’ve seen a reduction of concussions by 25 percent just last year. That’s continuing a three-year trend on that issue.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in an interview with Peter King on MMQB, said. “There was a lot of criticism several years ago that we were changing the game. We are changing the game, for the better. The game has never been better or safer, and I think that the statistics bear that out.”
With administration continually trying to reduce the risk involved with the football, players continue to have a choice as to whether or not the reward outweighs the consequences of participating in such a demanding sport. According to Goodell, these risks have been acknowledged for years, not just this season, when a 24-year-old decided to finish his career prematurely.