Earlier this week, a medical study conducted by Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, revealed that the degenerative brain injury chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a result of sustained concussions, was found in approximately 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that had been donated to scientific research. As a result of these shocking new findings, Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel announced his retirement from the NFL at the age of 26. Urschel released a statement explaining his retirement on Twitter, citing his desire to pursue his doctorate in mathematics and his impending fatherhood as the two primary reasons for his abrupt decision. But per ESPN, the CTE study was the main reason he hung up his shoulder pads.
— John Urschel (@JohnCUrschel) July 27, 2017
Urschel was drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. He played in 40 games over his first three seasons and was expected to compete for the starting center position during training camp. But the latest CTE news threw a wrench in those plans, with Urschel apparently deciding the risks of the game were not worth missing out on all the other things he hopes to do in life, including becoming a dad. While he didn’t overtly state the link, ESPN reported that the study results were a large factor in his decision.
This was not the first time Urschel showed concern for the effect football might be having on his health long term. After suffering a concussion during the 2015 season, he noted that he believed the hit affected his ability think mathematically for several months after. Mathematics is a deep passion for Urschel, as he had already been pursuing his Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT during the NFL offseason. Now, he plans on focusing on that full time.
Urschel will also be able to focus on becoming a dad for the first time, as he told his Twitter followers that he and his fiancé are expecting their first child in December. Walking away from such a lucrative and illustrious career cannot be easy for Urschel, but it’s clear his upcoming career as dad already means so much more to him than football ever could.