CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Luke Kuechly’s retirement was surprising to many, but it became clear it’s something he hasn’t taken lightly.
“It's never the right time to step away but now is the right time for me,” Kuechly said in his announcement video.
The now former Panthers linebacker didn’t give a specific reason for his sudden retirement at 28 years old. He just said, “There's only one way to play this game since I was a little kid is to play fast, play physical and play strong.”
Some speculate Kuechly, who’s had at least three concussions in his professional career, is calling it quits, in part, because of it.
“I'm really happy he retired,” Dr. Peter Ewert told FOX 46. Ewert is a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist, and he’s seen his fair share of concussion symptoms.
“Great player,” Ewert said about Kuechly, “I've been a Panthers fan myself. I work with a lot of ex-NFL players and I see the long-term devastating effects that they can have.”
Concussions aren’t just prevalent in male football players, however.
Dale Earnhardt Junior retired from NASCAR in 2017, in part, because of the concussions that sidelined him.
“When you get in a type of situation that he was in,” Earnhardt Junior said, “you have to make some difficult choices and I think he made the right one.”
Earnhardt Jr. says Kuechly is setting an example for younger athletes, and it could act as a heads up to parents.
“Girls concuss at twice the rate of boys in these match sports, so basketball, soccer and again we're spending too much time focusing on the boys,” said Jason Bouton, head athletic trainer at King School and a concussion researcher. Bouton studied 365 high school male and female athletes. He found that girl soccer players are more prone to concussions than boys, adding they take longer to recover.
He says it all comes down to brain structure, hormone levels and even the lack of upper body and neck strength.
Kuechly’s retirement sent shockwaves through the NFL world, and now we all wait and see what comes next