In Andrew Luck’s Retirement, Football’s Consequences Weigh Heavily

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On footballLuck belongs to a young generation more carefully weighing the dangers of the game against the financial rewards.ImageAndrew Luck had a terrific 2018 season for the Indianapolis Colts, but the injuries that built up in his career led to his early retirement.CreditCreditMark Zaleski/Associated PressAug. 25, 2019Updated 7:10 p.m. ETIn the century that it has grown into the nation’s most-watched sport, the N.F.L. has expected players to act like warriors willing to suck up the pain and sacrifice their bodies for the good of the team, and to be grateful they are paid handsomely to do it.Yet even as awareness of the physical toll of the sport rises, the sudden retirement just two weeks before the start of the season by the Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck at age 29 still provided a jolt.Luck, a former first overall draft pick and one of the league’s brightest stars over the last seven seasons, said Saturday he could no longer take the years of pain and rehabilitation from a host of cringe-worthy injuries: a lacerated kidney, injured ribs, at least one concussion, torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder and, most recently, a calf and ankle injury. It was not the first time a young player had stepped away supposedly in the prime of his or her career — several have done so in recent years — but it was one of the more vivid examples of the changing dynamics of a league striving to portray the game as safer than ever while its players increasingly weigh the consequences of continuing a career where the long-term physical issues only build as the seasons pile up.Unlike in earlier eras, when players had to grind out a decade or more to maintain a high standard of living, the financial arrangements of today’s top players often make it easier to retire comfortably before they hit 30.“There’s an immense amount of pressure for a No. 1 draft pick to be out there,” said Chris Borland, who shocked the football world when he retired from the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 after one standout season. “But you’re seeing more players prioritize their health over money.”The minimum salary for rookies today is approaching $500,000. F

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