The shocking retirement of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland sent waves throughout the NFL. A league that has been paying copious amounts of money to retired players for concussions is now seeing a player leaving millions of dollars on the table because he fears for his long-term health, and he is not willing to take the risk. This got me thinking about how injuries differ throughout sports.
There is no denying baseball has its share of injuries. Players can be injured sliding into a bag, getting hit by a pitch, or even shagging fly balls. But the injuries are less taxing in baseball than in football. The game in and of itself is less taxing on the body. In baseball, you are not colliding with another person every play. One could collide with the outfield wall from time to time, but it’s rare we see any player suffer a major injury from doing so. It is rare enough that when it does happen, like Sunday when Yankees prospect Jose Pirela suffered a concussion after colliding with the center field wall and then hitting his head on the warning track, it is major news.
Jamie Moyer pitched until he was nearly 50. It’s rare we see players with longevity in football. Drew Brees is playing into his later years, but he missed significant time early in his career. Longevity in baseball is much more frequent than in football.
Not to mention baseball is much more lucrative. For comparison, the two biggest contracts in football and baseball in their respective offseasons were signed by Ndamukong Suh and Giancarlo Stanton. Suh, who is widely considered the best interior defensive lineman in football, signed a 6-year, $114 million contract. Stanton’s deal was a 13-year, $325 million contract. The guarantees are also vastly different. The Miami Dolphins can cut Suh at any point, for any reason, and only have to pay him around $60 million. On the other hand, the Marlins are on the hook for every penny of Stanton’s deal. By comparison, if you are one of the best in baseball (Stanton is the number three position player in baseball behind Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen), you get double the years and almost triple the cash.
Athletes will eventually age and will enter and then exit their prime. This is all the more reason to get everything you can out of your career. Is baseball less physical, less taxing on the human body than football? Yes. Is baseball more lucrative than football? Yes. You can, hopefully, have a longer career and make more money, while not risking your long-term health in the process. And really, you’re long-term health is what actually matters. Because you can make all the money in the world. But, if you get hit in the head day after day for 15 years, then can’t remember what you had for breakfast that morning, your wife’s name, your children’s dance recitals, was it worth it? Was it REALLY worth choosing football over baseball?