MADISON, Wis. - Former Badger football linebacker Chris Borland returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus Thursday evening to discuss meditation and its potential benefits for athletes and beyond.
Borland, who played for the San Francisco 49ers, is one of the first NFL players to leave the league because of the brain trauma risk associated with football.
He now partners with Chad McGehee from UW-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds to improve the mental well-being of athletes.
UW-Madison is one of the pioneers in studying meditation, with professor Richie Davidson leading the way in researching how the practice can change the brain.
In a Badger Café panel conversation at the Wisconsin Alumni Association on Thursday, Borland and McGehee spoke about mindfulness and the meditation program they developed for NFL players and college athletes.
“In a climate that’s really rife with controversy and arguments over the game, this study and Richie’s work speak to a more hopeful tone and something we can do to help former players,” Borland said.
He said practicing meditation can make a real difference with things like pain management, focus and resiliency, which can come in handy for anyone.
"It isn't a cult, it's not religion. These are breath exercises, like athletes lift weights,” he said. ”It helps your mind, so the benefits hopefully are universal, and athletes can serve as a good example of that."
Borland said leaving football was the right decision for him, and he’s currently doing a lot of work with meditation in his home city of Los Angeles.
He has a message for current high school and college athletes.
“I’d say that it’s hard in the moment to see the bigger picture, but know that it’s unwise to sacrifice the future for that moment,” Borland said. “I know in high school or in college, you may be incentivized to play through injury, but just keep in mind that life is long, and there are many reasons to not do that."
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