Ross, who blossomed as a freshman in 2018 during Clemson's run to a national championship, was expected to be the focal point of the Tigers' passing game in 2020.
Ross suffered what the team thought was a stinger during a scrimmage in the final practice session before the coronavirus pandemic ended spring workouts. The next day, team doctors said X-rays revealed the issue, which Swinney said Ross has had since birth without being aware of it.
According to Swinney, Ross will fly to Pittsburgh on Thursday and undergo surgery on Friday. Dr. David Okonkwo, a leading neuroscientist, will perform the surgery.
Swinney said Ross is in good spirits and is fine physically, but the injury is a significant concern if he were to play football.
"He feels perfectly fine," Swinney said, "but doctors know he's at risk."
Swinney said Okonkwo is "optimistic" that Ross will be able to get back to football at some point, but Swinney said he is unaware of any player who has undergone surgery for this issue and returned.
"In January, Justyn will have a decision to make," Swinney said, noting that Ross could return to Clemson for a fourth season or attend the NFL combine, should the injury appear healed.
Ross finished last season with 66 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.