49ers’ Chris Borland retires: NFL responds, cites safety progress

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, left, chases Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin during a game on Nov. 27, 2014.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced his retirement from the NFL at age 24 on Monday, citing concerns about concussions and long-term brain damage as the reason he is calling it quits.

Borland, who appeared to be on the path of a future NFL standout after a solid rookie campaign, said he’s worried that playing football could jeopardize his health some day.

“I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise,” he told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Monday.

Jeff Miller, the NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy, released a statement Tuesday regarding Borland’s decision:


“We respect Chris Borland’s decision and wish him all the best. Playing any sport is a personal decision,” the statement read.

“By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25% last year, continuing a three-year downward trend. We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority.”

Although the NFL has made strides in addressing safety issues in recent years, it’s still a huge point of concern for many players who may not want to risk their well-being as the league’s “culture of safety” continues to mature.

It remains to be seen whether Borland’s retirement will serve as a catalyst for further player-safety enhancements.