By Ken Reed
Chris Borland has walked away from the NFL after an excellent rookie season with the San Francisco 49’ers. The reason? Concerns about brain trauma.
He wasn’t the first. Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sydney Rice and offensive lineman Jacob Bell of the Cincinnati Bengals walked away from the game prematurely, citing concerns about concussions and brain damage.
Borland was scheduled to make more than a half-million dollars in 2015 playing football. But he didn’t think that was worth risking his long-term health.
“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
“From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk … I just thought to myself, ‘What am I doing? Is this how I’m going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I’ve learned and know about the dangers?'”
What Borland did takes courage. Not so much because of the money he left behind, but because of the macho man culture he’s leaving. Being fearless, playing with pain, etc., are all part of the NFL culture … the football culture really, as the “just suck it up” attitude permeates high school and youth league football as well. Pulling away from that kind of mindset, especially at age 24, certainly couldn’t have been easy for Borland.
“It shows the macho culture of ‘destroy yourself for the game’ is losing its grip, that it’s no longer cool to question people’s toughness,” said Chris Nowinski, an expert on sports concussions who’s associated with Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. “That represent a big shift in thinking.”
Borland leaving a promising NFL career behind, and openly saying the reason for the move was his concern about the implications of constantly banging his head (it’s not just concussions, repetitive sub-concussive hits take their toll too), might make it easier for other players — at all levels of the game — to make the same decision.
“Obviously, guys will continue to play football,” tweeted ESPN football analyst Kirk Herbstreit. “But I guarantee the Borland early retirement gets the attention of a lot of moms and youth football.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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