One thing’s for sure: football isn’t good for your long-term health.
As exhibited by the early retirement of former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland this month, there are better long-term options than repeatedly smashing year head, with or without a helmet. The issue of concussions in football — especially the NFL — has sparked debate far and wide in recent years, with retirements like Borland’s providing a somewhat positive example of a solution.
Then there’s the grim incidents related to concussions — like the suicide of Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau.
Of course any athlete would like to avoid serious brain damage, but many aren’t willing to give up their millions like Borland. NFL players are in the NFL for one obvious reason: they’re good at football. In many cases, they’re better at football than anything else.
But that all starts with one thing: athletic talent.
So Chris Borland — who played just one year in the NFL — is passing on his most obvious career path early in order to promote his own health later in life.
He might have a plan worked out, but it probably won’t be as lucrative as the salary of a star NFL linebacker.
If an athlete is talented enough to make it in the NFL, there’s a chance they could stay on the field by switching to a new sport.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has a win and a loss in the past two Super Bowls, has been spending some time with the Texas Rangers during their spring training workouts. Wilson is a former minor league baseball player with major league talent.
It’s widely accepted that he’s simply working out with the Rangers — who own his MLB draft rights — for fun. But when it comes to long-term health, wouldn’t Wilson be better off switching to baseball now?
My guess is it would only take one player switching sports, especially if that player was in the spotlight as much as Wilson. If the former N.C. State and Wisconsin quarterback decided to hang up his football helmet and grab his baseball glove, he could spark a brand-new trend.
There’s no doubt injuries still happen in baseball, but there’s also no doubt injuries to the head are less prevalent.
Now I know there are a select few NFL players who could successfully switch to baseball, but if it becomes anything close to a trend, that tendency could trickle down to younger ages.
There’s a good chance the only way to eliminate the risk of football-related brain injuries is to quit playing football. If young kids start seeing their football heroes switching sports, they’d be much more likely to pick baseball, basketball, soccer or any other sport over football.
Nobody wants one concussion, and the idea of life-altering brain injuries is even worse.
I can’t say I want to see football go away completely — I love the sport — but I can say I’d be curious to see what happens if Wilson chose to switch sports full time.
Maybe nothing would change, or maybe the next Odell Beckham Jr. — a former United States Men’s National Soccer Team prospect — will be suiting up for the 2022 World Cup instead of Super Bowl LVI.