The March 18th episode of All Access from the Chicago Bears Radio Network focused on the decision of Chris Borland to retire from the NFL. Chris Borland put together an impressive rookie season that left many anticipating a very bright future as a Linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. However, he made the decision to retire at the age of 24, due to desires to mitigate any potential lifelong disabilities or chronic health conditions many former NFL players current live with, like traumatic brain injuries or musculoskeletal deteriorations. This revelation shocked the world, with news coverage from local medial outlets to the BBC reporting on it. The All Access show’s hosts, Zack, sports reporter; Tom Miller, former Chicago Bears Quarterback; and Tom Thayer, former Chicago Bears Offensive lineman, weighed in with their thoughts.
Zack’s comments appear to be neutral, taking the position of an outsider looking in, therefore lacking personal experiences with such decisions. Tom Miller conveyed thoughts that supported the rookie’s decision, but also acknowledging that these tough choices also occurs in other professionals like law enforcement and first responders. Tom Thayer’s statements possessed a slight defensive attitude towards the news coverage, highlighting his own story about knowing of certain risks but mitigating them with his goals to play within the NFL.
Throughout this segment, three questions kept crossing my mind. These include:
- How does this situation influence perceptions about how one develops a disability or chronic condition?
- Are these avoidable, inherent, or voluntary? Does it matter?
- How does one’s perceptions, like blame, sorrow, or empathy, changes based on the conditions surrounding the development of a disability or chronic condition?
- Born in a impoverished community with barriers to accessing nutritious foods, safe living conditions, and access to healthcare
- Drafted into the US military and deployed to a combat theater where two-thirds of those who served would die ahead of their non-military generational cohort due to combat, environmental exposures, or other situations stemming from the lack of efficacious health resources, while the remaining one-third developed chronic conditions at rates much higher than their non-military generational cohorts
- Joined the US Military and deployed to war zones with a high risk for sustaining combat related injuries
- Electing to play in the National Football league for 10 years, in primarily back-up roles due to sustaining multiple injuries
To better frame these questions, think about the four situations listed below and ask yourself the three questions from above.
Please note that this is not my attempt to rank these different determinants of health, rather to illustrate that our beliefs and perceptions dramatically influence how we view these situations.
I urge each of you to take the time and listen to the Chicago Bear’s All Access and post your thoughts below. Additionally, feel free to comment on the above situations as it relates to the questions posted.