Before Chris Borland decided to walk away from the NFL in 2015, he spent a season learning about the long-term risks of the sport, reading books and talking to neuroscientists.
Nobody mentioned Parkinson’s disease. A single article, he said, referred to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
“It was mostly about CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy],” said Borland, who retired at age 24 after a standout rookie season as a linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers.
Three years later, the number of players with a Parkinson’s or ALS diagnosis who have applied for and received payments under the NFL’s concussion settlement is significantly larger than projected, raising the possibility that professional football players may be at greater risk of developing the neurodegenerative diseases than previously believed.
In the 18 months since the settlement went into effect, 113 Parkinson’s and 42 ALS claims were filed by former players or their representatives. Of those, 81 Parkinson’s and 30 ALS claims worth a combined $146.5 million either have been paid or approved.