By Ken Reed
Former San Francisco 49er Chris Borland, once dubbed “the most dangerous man in football” because of his decision to retire after his rookie season and to share information with athletes and parents about brain trauma, doesn’t watch football anymore but he has stayed close to the game due to his brave decision to get out.
“I think I’m connected to this issue in some capacity, football and brain damage,” says Borland.
“… I think there’s a lot of misinformation. I’d like to be a voice of reason … The decision I made when I see kids’ heads bang together, I think of (how) your brain sets unfastened in a pool of cerebrospinal fluid. And its gelatinous and its crashing against a hard skull. So that’s kind of an image I always have when football’s on.”
Borland currently works for a variety of mental health and brain disease organizations. He says he misses the camaraderie of football but knows he made a sound decision to leave the game, even though he left more than $2 million in salary behind.
Borland says the growing mound of research on football and brain trauma has convinced him that the game of football is inherently dangerous and that there’s just so much we can do as a society to make it safer.
“One thing that’s important to understand is that it’s believed that the pathology of CTE doesn’t have to do with concussion so much as it has to do with the accumulation of subconcussive hits,” says Borland. “So every hit matters. If you’re subject to 800 or 1200 of these every year it accumulates.”
That’s why he prefers the term “repetitive brain trauma” instead of concussion when talking about CTE.
“It’s like erosion,” says Borland.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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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.
A League of Fans Special Report