Damian Swann: Third concussion for Saints rookie could mean big decision

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Damian Swann, the New Orleans Saints’ fifth-round draft pick this year, reportedly suffered his third concussion of the season during Sunday’s win in Tampa.  The rookie cornerback has a big decision to make regarding his NFL career.

No injury is good, especially when it’s a traumatic brain injury.  The most common and least serious type of traumatic brain injury, a concussion is still nothing to neglect.  If suffered enough and depending on the severity, concussions can sometimes cause long-term and/or even permanent damage.

In fact, last September, it was announced that nearly every studied brain of former NFL players tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE — a degenerative disease found in people with repetitive trauma to the brain.

For years, the NFL attempted to ignore evidence, but the league finally stated in federal court documents last year that it expects nearly a third of its players to develop long-term cognitive issues.

The NFL, despite its constant overlooking of the issue, and NFL Player’s Association are working together in attempts to lessen the amount of concussions in order to protect the health and well-being of their players.

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We all know about the league’s concussion protocol, a detailed document put together by the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee with assistance from the NFLPA.

For a better understanding of the NFL’s concussion protocol, here is what the players who have suffered the brain injury must go through before returning to the field.  This is from the document itself:

"Return-to-Participation ProcessAfter a concussion has occurred in practice or play, the concussed player must be examined and monitored in the training room on a daily basis or as decided by the medical staff. Components of the NFL Sideline Concussion Assessment can be utilized to check for symptoms as well as continue to monitor the other aspects of the examination. The following measures must occur in order for aplayer to return to play:a. A player returns to baseline status of symptoms and neurologic exam, including cognitive and balance functions.i. Repeat neuropsychological evaluation is performed before return to practice or play with interpretation of the data by the team neuropsychology consultant. The team neuropsychology consultant reports the findings back to the team physician.b. A graduated exercise challenge, followed by a gradual return to practice and play, is initiated when the player returns to baseline status. The RTP protocol following a concussion follows a stepwise process to be outlined in the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee’s Return to Participation Protocol.c. Prior to return to practice or play, not only must the team physician clear the player, but the Independent Neurological Consultant with expertise in concussion must also evaluate and clear the player for return to practice and play.d. A player may be considered for return to practice and play only after the player has returned to baseline status with rest and exertion, has repeat neuropsychological testing which is interpreted by the team neuropsychology consultant as back to baseline levels of functioning, and has completed the Return to Participation Protocol referenced above and is cleared by the Team Physician and the Independent Neurological Consultant."

While we can all argue that concussions are an unfortunate part of the game, and that players need to ‘man up’ and realize ‘this is what they get paid for’ (yes, I’ve heard that), concussions are no laughing matter.

Of course, we remember Chris Borland.  The San Francisco 49ers third-round draft pick from a year ago had a remarkable rookie campaign.  However, after just one year, he announced his retirement due to fear of getting brain damage if he continued to play.

After suffering Week 5 and Week 8 concussions, it is being reported that New Orleans Saints cornerback Damian Swann, who left Sunday’s contest in Tampa with an apparent head injury, has been diagnosed with his third concussion of his rookie season.

Unlike Swann, Borland didn’t suffer a concussion — he just feared them.  I guess that’s understandable.  But Swann has now fallen to three traumatic brain injuries in a nine-week time frame.  That is not good.  That is not good at all for both him and the Saints organization.

Damian Swann has a big decision to make — to keep playing and risk long-term damage, or play it safe and call it quits after just one year in the NFL.  While it seems Swann is eager to get back out on the field, he’ll likely miss the remainder of the season.

The Saints made the decision to trade back up into the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft to draft Damian Swann.  It seemed like the choice paid off, as Swann quickly emerged as one of the team’s higher performing defensive backs before suffering his first concussion.

Next: 10 Saints players who could be gone in 2016

While it would hurt to see a talent like that call it quits after one year, especially with New Orleans’ struggles on the defensive side of the ball, there is nothing more important than player health and safety.  And Damian Swann must play it safe.  He’ll have the approaching offseason to think it over and make what could be the biggest decision of his life.  For now, he’ll have to root for his team from the bench for the remainder of the year.

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