Updated: March 20, 2015

The premature retirement of budding San Francisco 49-er football star Chris Borland because of his concerns about the long-term cognitive effects of head collisions has refocused the debate about the risks of playing football. For Borland, retirement was not a knee-jerk decision. He did extensive homework on the connection between head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and talked to many people inside and outside of the game before deciding to retire. His conclusion was that football was not worth the risk to his health and safety.

The NFL’s reaction to Borland’s decision was predictable. It showed that the league still holds to the fantasy that risks can be effectively managed by safety protocols. Pointing to its own study that “concussions are down 25% in the last three years,” it proudly announced that “the game has never been safer,” a boast that should be considered in the context of its long history of fudging facts and dismissing evidence of lasting brain damage. Retired players are unlikely to be consoled and current players should be suspicious. Borland summarily dismissed the NFL’s claim as bogus as well as irrelevant. He believes the game is inherently dangerous, a fact that cannot be changed by safety measures.


In the hope of renewing conversations about football safety and whether it is wise for parents to allow their children to play football at a young age, when brains are more susceptible to injury, BLS is re-posting The Professor’s five-part series on head injuries in football. Go to:

Part I: the NFL Fumbles
Part II: the NFL Finally Responds
Part III: Domestic Violence
Changing the Culture of Football
Parents Beware


For further insights from The Professor, please visit his webpage.