Former Texas A&M and current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Ryan Swope has retired from football, he announced July 25. Swope said that due to repeated concussions, he is retiring from the game at age 22 without playing a single down in the NFL. He released a statement through his Twitter account tonight, which was then re-posted by his agent, saying that he was giving up his “lifelong dream” because he has been advised by doctors of the serious risks football creates. The Cardinals have placed him on the reserve/retired list, basically making him a retired player.
Swope was a star receiver at A&M, with over 3,000 yards receiving and 34 touchdowns during his four-year playing career. He is the school’s all-time leading receiver; An even more impressive feat considering he caught that many passes from three different quarterbacks.
While he was considered one of this year’s top receiving draft prospects, his medical issues dropped him from a potentially high draft choice to a sixth round pick by the Cardinals. He ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time at this year’s NFL Combine and was seen as a “Wes Welker type,” but that was mostly due to his whiteness. Swope had two officially documented concussions at Texas A&M and his medical history made his stock as a draft pick plummet.
Swope had been apparently medically cleared before the draft, but had long-lingering symptoms of a concussion suffered at Texas A&M – symptoms that were “very, very, very surprising” to his new Cardinal coaching staff. The Cardinals thought that his symptoms would clear up and that Swope would be “fine” for training camp, but he still felt like he couldn’t play.
It is a shame to see any player retire due to injury, but for a 22-year-old rookie to retire before he plays a single snap in the NFL is alarming. Two official concussions is a small number for some players who are still in the game today; Swope just had more severe symptoms than others, apparently. According to a Boston Globe article from January, NFL players “die nearly 20 years earlier on average than other American men.”
This creates an even higher awareness for the issue that plagues America’s favorite sport. The true issue, though, is not how the NFL and the NFL Players Association reacts to it – they’re investing hundreds of millions for research already – but how it can be handled in high school and college football. Ryan Swope didn’t play a single down in the NFL, so his concussion problems obviously stem from his college playing days.
How does the NCAA and to a bigger extent, high schools and even younger divisions fix this problem? They better start finding answers, because the response will eventually turn from “football is dangerous but we take the necessary precautions to protect our kids” to “football is too dangerous for my kid. He’s going to play chess instead.” We all know the risks and love the sport, but when does it finally reach a point where it becomes too dangerous to even play it anymore?