As he prepared to graduate from Ohio State University with a degree in finance this spring, Andrew Sweat, a linebacker for the Buckeyes, signed a free agent contract with the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns after not being selected in the NFL draft.
Two weeks later, his pro football career came to a screeching halt, due to the return of concussion-like symptoms.
Sweat suffered three concussions during his playing days at Ohio State, including one during his senior year that left him with mental fogginess and dizziness for months, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He told the paper, “I’ve never been depressed in my life. I’m the most positive person, and I was down. I know it wasn’t me.”
He began feeling better in April, according to the paper, and felt that way until this past Friday, the day he was due to report to the Browns’ rookie minicamp. Sweat slipped in the shower that morning at the Browns’ team hotel and hit his head, causing his concussion symptoms to return, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Based on the plethora of research emerging about the dangers of concussions, Sweat decided to end his professional football career right then and there, opting to attend law school instead.
“Concussion symptoms didn’t want to risk it,” Sweat tweeted on Monday of this week. “Thanks to the browns [sic] for the opportunity. Health trumps football any day.”
Sweat was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, according to his profile on the Ohio State athletics website, and has been accepted into five law schools, the Dispatch reported.
He also wasn’t the only young player to retire from professional football this week due to concussions.
Chad Diehl, an undrafted free agent from Clemson University who participated in the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie minicamp this past weekend, suffered a concussion at the camp and was released by the team Wednesday.
“After having an MRI done, along with multiple tests and a history of quite a few collisions as a fullback, the doctor and I came into agreement that it would be in my best interest for my football career to go ahead and come to an end,” Diehl posted on his Facebook page, according to the Spartanburg Herald Journal (S.C.).
This new awareness about concussions has also been a cause for concern for NFL veterans. Jacob Bell, a 31-year-old offensive lineman who signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals this spring, announced his retirement from football last week, too.
“One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health,” Bell said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “One thing that’s obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that’s going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?”
When you hear people discuss the possibility of concussions bringing an end to football, this may be what they’re referring to. It’s not that the league will one day, all of a sudden, cease to exist.
Instead, it’s the question of: What happens when players decide the risks of football outweigh the rewards?
For Sweat, Diehl, and Bell, we know which side they’ve settled on.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.