Former NFL player Chris Borland has blasted the league for hiding the risks of catastrophic brain damage.
Borland, who retired from the sport after playing his only season for the San Francisco 49ers, appeared in a public service announcement and discussed why he left while denouncing how the NFL allegedly spent years trying to play down and discredit research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.
Borland is working with the Union of Concerned Scientists, according to the organization, “to raise awareness of how powerful interests, including the NFL, attack science for their own gain.”
The new public service announcement will start airing this week.
“The NFL has been trying to sow doubt about the science behind brain injuries, which for me is especially sad when you think about the fact that there are 5-year-old kids out there playing tackle football,” said Borland, according to a release from the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The costs are high, and the NFL has made a lot of money while passing those costs on to the players, their families and their communities. We need to stop this from continuing—in football and in other industries—by standing up for science.”
A former linebacker, Borland, 26, sent shockwaves around the league when he retired after a stellar rookie season in 2015, citing concerns about head injuries inherent to the sport.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly insisted that dozens of new rules have been implemented to make the game safer than ever before, the New York Times points out.
In August, he again downplayed the link between football and concussion-related degenerative brain disease.
“The average NFL player lives five years longer than you,” Goodell said, per ESPN. “So their lifespan is actually longer and healthier. And I think because of all the advancements, including the medical care, that number is going to even increase for them.”
"Players can hit their head enough times during their first 18 years of life to develop CTE."
— Concussion L.F. (@ConcussionLF) October 20, 2017
In a recent study, 110 of 111 brains donated by NFL players had CTE, which occurs from repeated blows to the head, according to the Times. For example, former Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, a Super Bowl winner, had CTE and he “had requested that his brain be examined to see why his condition had been progressively slipping,” the Times said.
“I think the one thing everyone agrees on is there’s an awful lot more questions than there are answers at this point,” Goodell said in August.
According to Boston University:
The repeated brain trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement. The brain degeneration is associated with common symptoms of CTE including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia.