Time to Hang Up the Cleats Already?


Without warning, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his retirement from football in January. His retirement shocked football fans all over the world, in addition to players and other members affiliated with the NFL.

Despite the sudden news being disappointing to many, it is evident that Kuechly made a well-thought decision that could affect the rest of his life. Kuechly played inside linebacker, a very physically-demanding position where bone-crushing hits are the norm. As a result, his career was plagued by numerous concussions. Though he did not specifically state that his retirement was because of his concussions, a safe assumption can be made that his head injuries had a major impact on his decision. 

Luke Kuechly is one of the most highly-decorated linebackers in NFL history despite his relatively short career. Playing for only eight seasons, he amassed numbers and awards that can arguably guarantee him an eternal spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kuechly started off his career high-flying, being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. The next year, Kuechly was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. At the end of his career, Kuechly had been named a Pro Bowler seven times, made first-team and second-team all-pro a total of seven times, and won the Butkus Award three times, which is awarded to the best linebacker in the league. 

It’s unfortunate to hear about his decision to retire so suddenly, but this is nothing new to the football world. Most recently, NFL stars Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski have decided to hang up their cleats. Andrew Luck had a fairly successful career in the league, and Rob Gronkowski is arguably one of the greatest tight ends to ever set foot on the gridiron. The question is, “why are these guys retiring so soon?” Injuries and rehabilitation are to blame. 

Andrew Luck says, I’ve been stuck in this process. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me” (ESPN). 

Who can blame him for his decision? It’s difficult as a fan to see a professional athlete struggle, but with all the rehabilitation that these players must go through to return, it is gruelling for them and it affects them not only physically but mentally and emotionally. 

As for Gronkowski, the reasoning is the same for him. In his career, he has endured “playing through an ankle sprain in the Super Bowl to a forearm fracture to back surgeries to an ACL tear to concussions” (WBUR). 

It is evident that this trend will not end. With the risk of CTE, a brain condition linked with repeated blows to the head, it can be implied that sports fans will be seeing some of their favorite players retiring early too. It’s sad to say, but these players have lives as well and it would be a shame to see them suffer later in life because they decided to play through these severe injuries. Athletes are growing more and more wary of the dangers of playing, and it’s only a matter of time before another star hangs up the cleats.

Works Cited

Springer, Shira. “For Gronkowski, It Seems His Many Injuries Have Taken Their Toll.” For Gronkowski, It Seems His Many Injuries Have Taken Their Toll | WBUR News, WBUR, 11 Jan. 2019, www.wbur.org/news/2019/01/11/gronkowski-patriots-injuries.

Wells, Mike. “Luck Retires, Calls Decision ‘Hardest of My Life’.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 25 Aug. 2019, www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27456682/luck-retires-calls-decision-hardest-my-life.