A study released two days ago showing the high percentage of occurrences of CTE in the brains of football players may have been the final straw for one football player. John Urschel, a 26-year-old offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, suddenly announced his retirement yesterday Urschel is a doctoral candidate in applied mathematics at MIT, focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning. So you can see where a person like this would be concerned about head trauma.
Urschel suffered a concussion in August 2015 on a helmet-to-helmet hit, but it didn't dissuade him at the time:
I think it hurt my ability to think well mathematically. It took me about three weeks before I was football-ready. It took me a little bit longer before my high-level visualizations ability came back.
Urschel appeared to still be on the fence up until recently with training camp opening for the team yesterday and he was expected to compete for the starting center position. He spoke about it continuing to play while on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
I recognize that this is somewhat irrational, but I am doing it. It's more important to me that I'm able to do the two things I love. I don't know if people have really done things that I've done before. I don't know if they'll do it after me. But I enjoy carving out my own path and not listening to what people say I can and I can't do.
A team source said the players decision was related to the recent study. Urschel told coach John Harbaugh his decision to retire about 90 minutes before the first team practice.
That was out of the blue. He had been working hard. He was working on his snaps all summer. He was doing a great job. It was definitely a lightning bolt that way. He said he's going to retire from football, [and] that was something that's been on his mind for quite a while and throughout the offseason. That's what he decided to do. We respect John tremendously.
Urschel texted Domonque Foxworth about his decision who read it on ESPN's First Take:
I guess the biggest thing I'd want to say is that I'm excited to focus on my mathematical career full time. And to finally be at MIT full time. A place that I love so much. And when I really thought about it, it didn't make sense to play this season, when the thing I'm most excited about is mathematics right now. But that I love the game, love football.
Urschel then posted the following message on twitter:
— John Urschel (@JohnCUrschel) July 27, 2017
Urschel was named among Forbes' "30 under 30" in the field of science. He has published six peer-reviewed mathematics papers to date and has three more ready for review.