Expect more early NFL retirements, says former player

Young NFL retirement an 'epidemic': Jack Brewer
Young NFL retirement an 'epidemic': Jack Brewer   

Expect more NFL players to leave the game early amid a head injury "epidemic," a former NFL safety said on Tuesday.

"I think player safety overall is getting better, if you look across the board, but this is an epidemic. You will continue to see players at a young age retiring early," entrepreneur and philanthropist Jack Brewer told CNBC's "Power Lunch."

On Monday, promising linebacker Chris Borland, 24, retired from the San Francisco 49ers after only one season. Borland's departure followed the retirement of 30-year-old teammate Patrick Willis, 27-year old Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds and 26-year-old Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker earlier this month.

Latavius Murray #28 of the Oakland Raiders is tackled by Chris Borland #50 of the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter at O.co Coliseum on December 7, 2014 in Oakland, California.
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Latavius Murray #28 of the Oakland Raiders is tackled by Chris Borland #50 of the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter at O.co Coliseum on December 7, 2014 in Oakland, California.

While most of the early retirees didn't specifically cite injury fears, Borland said that concerns about repetitive head trauma drove his decision. Concussions have become an ongoing point of contention in the league as some former players have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease.

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"By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend," the NFL said in a statement responding to Borland's retirement.

Educating players about head injuries and handling them correctly once they happen is crucial, Brewer said. As more information about the long-term effects of head injuries becomes available, more players will step away from the NFL early, he said.

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Concussions have become more of a concern because the league documents them much better than in the past.

"I think now we have more concussions because we are actually tracking them," he said.

Brewer noted that he sees more "concern" about head injuries than when he played in the early-2000s. During his career, he would see "laughter and high-fives" after a player got "knocked out" by a big hit.