Former Riders linebacker retires citing health risks posed by football

Former Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Cameron Ontko has announced his retirement from football, citing concerns for his physical and mental health.

The 26-year-old has played in 29 games over three seasons with B.C., Calgary and Saskatchewan. The native of Cleveland, Ohio suited up for ten games for the Riders last season, making 10 special teams tackles. He was released last December.

Ontko’s tweet included a link to a story by Hamilton Spectator reporter Steve Buist that tested the brains of 22 former CFL players to examine the long-term effects of concussions and repeated hits to the head suffered by former football players.

“The disturbing differences found between the players and controls throughout the various forms of testing suggest strong evidence of a link between football, repeated hits to the head and long-term effects on the brain,” the story said. “The findings raise very serious concerns about the future health prospects of former football players.”

The CFL has refused to acknowledge a connection between football and the brain injuries found in former players.

“We know there are football players that have had CTE,” said commissioner Randy Ambrosie last November. “It’s a terrible thing, that we’re not going to dispute.

“We have to follow the science and the science … is inconclusive. The cause and effect is unclear, it just simply is.”