Chris Borland

In this March 1, 2018, file photo, Chris Borland, a former NFL linebacker and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the University of Wisconsin, testifies before a Illinois House Mental Health Committee hearing in Springfield, Ill., on House Bill 4341, which would ban tackle football for kids under 12 years of age. Borland was illustrating how repetitive sub-concussive hits that begin when children play impact sports can be as dangerous as a single hit that results in a concussion.

ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

After realizing his dream of reaching the NFL, Chris Borland gave up the game after just one season. And he says one doctor's work played a key role in his difficult decision. 

The former University of Wisconsin linebacker, who retired from professional football in 2015 after his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, shared his praise of Dr. Ann McKee, a Wisconsin alumnus, in a piece he wrote for Time's "The 100 Most Influential People of 2018."

"Dr. McKee’s groundbreaking work on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was central to my decision, and she may have saved my life," Borland wrote in the piece. 

"At the very least, her work has likely spared me much of the suffering we see today among former NFL players."

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Chris Borland, Tre Mason

San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland tackles St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., on Nov. 2, 2014. Borland, a third-round draft pick out of the University of Wisconsin, retired from the NFL in 2015 after his rookie season. 

Borland, who played for the Badgers from 2009-14, was a third-round draft pick by San Francisco in 2014 and contributed 107 tackles, one sack and two interceptions. 

As a senior with the Badgers, Borland was named Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America.

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Chris Borland - Badgers

Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Chris Borland (44) sails through the air towards the action, as linebacker Conor O'Neill (13), left, and safety Dezmen Southward (12), bottom take down Northwestern Wildcats wide receiver Christian Jones (14) on a first down pass play in the first quarter at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Oct. 12, 2013.

The 27-year-old's piece in Time also discussed some of the criticism McKee has faced with her research.

"She is reviled by the old boys’ club of a multibillion-dollar industry," Borland wrote. "Punishment for doing your job well is an unparalleled professional pressure.

"Yet Dr. McKee shows up to work every day. She shares her findings. And she tells the truth, however uncomfortable."

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Online Sports Editor

Sports Web Editor, Social Media Coordinator, and Video/Podcast Producer for the Wisconsin State Journal.