San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland packed it in after one season.
The cash and fame, he claimed, weren’t worth the risk of retiring with a scrambled brain.
To be fair, we know a lifetime of being battered in sport can be debilitating. Famed Dallas Cowboy running back Tony Dorsett in a recent interview. acknowledged he suffers from memory, loss, depression and dementia—tied to years of head-banging in college and the NFL.
And, it is not just football. In 1984, Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson, which could have resulted from the shots to the head during his long boxing career.
On the other hand, players like Paul Hornung, the “Golden Boy” of Coach Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers is still going strong at age 79. Here he is speaking in a recent interview with Fox News host Greta van Susteren.
In truth, while scientists know a lot more about what goes on inside the head than they did just a few years ago, they can’t predict with certainty how every brain handles taking a beating.
So what is an athlete to do—pursue their passion or play it safe?
And this isn’t just a dilemma for sports stars. Every Marine and soldier who goes in harm’s way has to worry about brain injury in combat—from the concussive effects of explosions to the stress of military service. They don’t have the luxury of taking a big bonus and then calling it quits. What are they to do?