Players’ Physical Health Forcing Them to Retire Early

Within the last few years, pro football players have begun to wise up about the quality of life post-career. Analyst and former pro player Nate Burleson recently stated on “Total Access,” “This game is built for us to make as much money as you can, in this small window of time.” Many players are in agreeance. The number of players choosing to retire from the NFL early has almost quadrupled in the past four years. Most site current injuries or the prospect of future injuries as the leading factor in their decision. Risks associated with playing football have been riddled with controversy. Doctors outside of the NFL began to acknowledge the crippling effects of the sport decades ago. The NFL only recently acknowledged the link between playing the contact sport and disorders like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE.)


Nate Burleson agrees that players are encouraged to make as much money in as little amount of time as possible.

CTE is an aggressive neurological disorder. Some of the symptoms include difficulty walking and loss of memory. Dr. Bennet Omalu was the first to discover the disease. Dr. Ann McKee has picked up the proverbial torch, performing autopsies on former players.  Over 70 former football players have been diagnosed with the disease post mortem. Some of those players, like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Ray Easterling committed suicide as a result of the difficulties of living with CTE.

In 2014, the NFL reached a settlement to compensate thousands of former players for concussion-related injuries.  This is after the league employed Dr. Elliot Pellman and Dr. Mitch Berger to repeatedly deny the connection between football injuries and CTE. However, outside doctors and universities have completed numerous studies to prove otherwise.

Forced to Retire?

The increase of information about CTE isn’t all that is available to current players. They have access to retired greats like Joe Montana, who admits he can no longer run or enjoy other activities with his family. Other players that have chosen to retire early have noted the inability to sit comfortably and chronic pain in various areas.

As players wise up about the effects of playing a full career in the NFL, more players are retiring at a relatively early age. Former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Calvin Johnson, retired at the age of 30 because the game left him in pain. Adrian Coxson was slated to be a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. Coxson did not play a single game for the league as he received a Grade 3 concussion in training camp. He reached an injury settlement with the team for his efforts. The San Francisco 49’ers lost Chris Borland at the age of 24. He told “Outside the Lines,” “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”  Marshawn Lynch is the most popular player to retire this past season. At the age of 29, Lynch retired during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl by throwing his cleats onto a power line. Patriots Jerod Mayo and Packers B.J. Raji both retired before the height of their prime.

Though the knowledge of the effects of the game is rising and can be linked to the rise in early retirement, there have been a few noteworthy players in the history of the NFL that retired earlier than expected. Check out this list of five great players that were ahead of the trend.