Borland: If You Talked About CTE In 2014, Players "Would Laugh It Up"

Chris Borland retired from the NFL after his rookie season; he doesn't regret it

Reiter Than You
March 22, 2018 - 10:52 pm

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In March 2015, Chris Borland announced his retirement from the NFL. A third-round pick out of Wisconsin 10 months prior, the former 49ers linebacker ended his football career due to concerns about head trauma and CTE. It was a life-altering decision.

And one that Borland made relatively quickly. 

“It was really (my) rookie year,” Borland said on Reiter Than You, when asked when he began contemplating retirement. “I was concussed prior to the season and for the first time I think really looked into the consequences of a long career. I think as a young player and someone kind of in the midst of success personally and collectively as a team at Wisconsin, I was singularly focused and willfully ignorant of the consequences.”

But then he did some research.

“I was shocked,” Borland said. “I was familiar with the stories of Junior Seau and Mike Webster but learned that there’s a lot of guys between those famous names who struggled. I played both ways in high school, I was a four-year starter at Wisconsin and knew what was in store for me – or likely in store for me – if I met my goals as a pro. I wouldn’t say I decided to quit until after the season but only began looking into it early on in my rookie year.”

Borland’s initial research consisted of “informal conversations and Google searches.” The more he learned, the more concerned – and knowledgable – he became.

“I couldn’t have told you what CTE stood for,” Borland admitted. “I didn’t know the simple biomechanics of the injury. I didn’t know your brain sat floating in your skull. I had never given it any thought. It started real modestly, but then as I learned more and more and reached out to researchers and read some scientific journals and read some of the research that was coming out of places like Boston University and Michigan and UCLA and others, and ultimately met with them in person – it was a cumulative total of things that began with trying to figure out what exactly laid in store for me if I continued to play.” 

Borland, 27, has been out of the game for three years. He doesn’t know if players talk about CTE much today, when he played, they didn’t.

“I can tell you in 2014 it was a non-starter,” he said. “You just didn’t talk about it, and if you did, guys would laugh it up. I kept all of this to myself, partially out of respect to other players. I didn’t want to put this on them. It was weighing on me pretty heavily. I don’t know what it’s like today. I think the national conversation has changed. I know since I quit, a lot of other guys have stepped away earlier.”

C.J. Fiedorowicz, 26, is one of them. The former Texans tight end retired last week after sustaining three concussions in 2017.

“I think it’s great that guys are taking the information and making a decision that’s best for them,” Borland said. “I can’t tell you what it’s like internally. I know a lot of players today are saying they’re informed, but a lot of times they get the information from their team or the league. And that’s not always the best source."