Joshua Perry, an NFL linebacker, is retiring at age 24 after suffering six concussions, he announced Monday.
Perry — who was signed with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Seattle Seahawks over the course of his career — appeared on Today on Thursday to explain his “tough” decision.
“The decision’s hard because of the time that was invested and how much you love the game,” the former Ohio State athlete told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. “I’ve been playing football since I was 9 years old.”
He continued, “I love the game of football. So that made the decision tough. Walking away from such a long chapter in a journey in my life — transition is tough. The hard part was getting over that. The easy part was understanding that my health and my well-being is more important than just playing the game.”
Perry’s retirement comes amid growing concern about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a degenerative brain disease that stems from head injuries, in the NFL. In 2017, Boston University researchers found that, out of 111 former NFL players studied, 110 had CTE, according to Sports Illustrated.
The young athlete told Today he believes that the NFL is handling the situation well, though.
“I think that we do a great job in terms of the protocol that the NFL has,” he said. “Coaches aren’t pressuring players to get back. I think players feel their own type of pressure to be there for their teammates. As retired players, there are also a lot of benefits and resources for your health as well, so I think we’re getting better and better.”
Perry also commended the growing discussion of CTE among players, telling Today, “There’s been more conversation recently. I think a lot of guys tend to understand the risk but not necessarily talk about it because you can’t go into football having any reservations.”
Initially announcing his retirement through Twitter, Perry wrote, “The last thing I want to do is put the health of my brain and my future wellbeing in jeopardy over a game and a paycheck.”
Still, Perry acknowledged, “Football has opened so many doors for me.”
Perry already has plans for his retirement. He will continue running the Joshua Perry Family Foundation and will begin pursuing a career in real estate, he said on Twitter. He also told Today he has offers to go into sports broadcasting.
He also hopes to spend more time with his brother, who has Asperger syndrome.
“My family is really important,” Perry told Today. “I’ve got two great parents and two great brothers, and my younger brother is especially special to me because of all the adversity he’s had to fight through.”