The NCAA’s Lack Of Concussion Protocol In Action: Cardinals Rookie Retires Before Playing A Down

  • Zach Berger

It’s no secret that multiple concussions suffered over a career can lead to long-term brain damage, but this is the first time we’ve seen this happen. Ryan Swope, a rookie wide receiver out of Texas A&M drafted in the sixth round this year by the Cardinals, has retired because of symptoms related to concussions.

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said that he was “stunned” when hearing in June that Swope was still dealing with these symptoms according to a report from CBS Sports. The team placed Swope on the reserve-retired list and he will return to Texas A&M to finish his degree.

“We knew Ryan has a concussion history in college and understood that it could possibly be an issue,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said of drafting Swope. “As it turned out, he had a setback after he got here. Over the course of the subsequent evaluations, we all decided that Ryan’s long-term well-being was the number-one priority and this was the best course to take.”

Swope, a record-setting receiver at A&M, suffered a concussion during organized team activities with the Cardinals. He had four concussions during his college career. Swope made the decision to focus on his long-term health and that meant no more football.

This retirement comes in the same week that a concussion-related lawsuit against the NCAA is seeking to gain class action status. The lawsuit seeks damages for the NCAA’s alleged failure to protect student athletes from concussions and asks that the organization adopt corrective measures to properly prevent and treat concussions.

The plaintiffs are currently four former student-athletes, but the suit hopes to represent thousands if their class action filing is approved. The suit claims that the NCAA has failed to implement concussion protocol for its member schools to follow. The NCAA surveyed its schools in 2010, according to a press release from the Hagens Berman law firm, and these were the eye-popping responses:

  • One-third of schools did not perform baseline testing for some sports.
  • Less than half of schools confirmed that a physician is required to see all student-athletes with a concussion.
  • 39 percent of schools reported that they do not have established return-to-play guidelines
  • Almost half reported that student-athletes were allowed to return-to-play in the same game after a concussion diagnosis.
  • Only 13 percent of student-athletes were required to receive education on the dangers of concussions in the past two years.

It comes as no surprise that a player like Ryan Swope’s career came to an end before it even began when half of the schools in the NCAA are letting players return to play in the same game in which they suffered a concussion. At the very least, it would be good to see this lawsuit force the NCAA to implement clear concussion procedures to prevent situations like Swope’s in the future.

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