NFL player who retired at age 24 over head-injury concerns says it's easy to cheat the concussion protocol

Al Bello/Getty ImagesChris Borland in his lone NFL season.
  • An NFL player who is notable for retiring out of concern over the long-term effects of head injuries says players can easily cheat the league’s concussion protocol.
  • The player, Chris Borland, retired at age 24 after just one season in the NFL, citing his fear of head injuries.
  • The concussion protocol is another method the NFL is using to make the game safer, but it may still be flawed and subject to human nature.

The NFL continues to look for ways to reduce the number of concussions in football, as the effects of concussions and brain disease become increasingly visible, and one such method involves the league’s concussion protocol.

In an interview with Deadspin this week, the former NFL player Chris Borland claimed that players could, and would, easily work around the protocol.

“Players could very easily throw the initial baseline test,” Borland said. “We used to – not quite throw it, that’s strong, but we wouldn’t do our best, in hopes that if and when we were concussed and had to take the test, our numbers wouldn’t be so different that we couldn’t get back out on the field.”

The baseline test is used during a concussion examination as a comparison to how a player performs when fully healthy.

Borland’s comments echo a similar claim made by Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin on Bill Simmons’ “Any Given Wednesday.” SB Nation wrote a lengthy piece about the weaknesses of the system last year as well.

Borland made waves a few years ago when he retired from football at 24, specifically citing the long-term effects of head injuries as his reason.

“I just want to live a long healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise,” he said at the time.

It’s not hard to see why players would attempt to flout the concussion protocol. NFL careers on average are very short, and especially in a league without guaranteed contracts, players are easily replaceable. Many do not see enough incentive to sit out, especially for an injury that is so difficult to detect.

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