Chris Borland’s Retirement Takes Some Concussion Experts by Surprise

San Jose Mercury News—March 17, 2015

Chris Borland's retirement at age 24 caught even some leading concussion experts by surprise.

While they understood why the promising 49ers linebacker would be troubled by an increasing list of post NFL-career horror stories, some doctors cautioned that the high-profile cases overshadow recent breakthroughs in the treatment of sports-related brain injuries.

Kenton Fibel, MD the team physician for the New York Rangers, was among the doctors who indicated that a pre-existing condition -- perhaps a genetic component -- could be a factor for those who suffer the after-career effects of brain trauma.

"I think as imaging improves and we improve the research in the future, I think we could see who would be someone to counsel regarding further risk,' he said. "At this time, it would be a little premature to feel that you're still at increased risk for the future if you're not feeling symptoms."


Fibel also said that the NFL's stricter concussion protocol offers a dramatic improvement over previous eras.

"We used to say that players got 'dinged' or 'got their bell rung.' These are classic things, where you wouldn't be tough if you didn't play through them. You could just get back out there,'' said Fibel, the assistant attending physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in White Plains. "I think the real education has come that all these instances should really be closely monitored and should be closely evaluated."

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