Tua Tagovailoa left Thursday night’s game against the Bengals with an awful-looking concussion. The Dolphins stretchered their signal-caller out of the stadium to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Tagovailoa was cleared to travel home with the Dolphins on a plane, a welcome sign for what appeared on the TV screen as scary.
The controversy comes into play when Tagovailoa took the field four days after hitting his head off the field against Buffalo. In the game, Tagovailoa was pushed down to the ground by Bills linebacker Matt Milano. He then hit his head off the ground and stumbled after rising from the turf. Miami initially listed Tagovailoa as being evaluated for a head injury, but later changed that to a back injury.
In the post-game press conference, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel noted he was absolutely certain that Tagovailoa passed all proper protocols to return to the game on Sunday. The protocols are to check for concussion-like symptoms at the moment.
In order to pass the protocol, players must take an in-depth test to prove they are not concussed in any manner. The tests are done not just by the team physician, but also by an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant that is on the field at all NFL games. They must clear all of the tests and steps to return to game action in the same game.
Chris Nowinski, the founding CEO of Concussion Legacy Foundation, and the co-founder of the Boston University CTE Center helped establish many of the concussion protocols that are in place across sports today. His reaction to Tagovailoa’s injury is visceral. Nowinski warned that before the game, Tagovailoa should not play due to the risk posed to him.
If Tua takes the field tonight, it's a massive step back for #concussion care in the NFL.
If he has a 2nd concussion that destroys his season or career, everyone involved will be sued & should lose their jobs, coaches included. We all saw it, even they must know this isn't right https://t.co/vxpaOif5rh
— Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. (@ChrisNowinski1) September 29, 2022
I can not claim to be a doctor nor can I claim to know if Tagovailoa truly had a concussion on Sunday or a back injury. The NFLPA opened an investigation into this very matter to see if protocols were broken. It would be easy for me at this point to play chair doctor and call for everyone to be fired. If protocols throughout the investigation are shown to be broken. they should be.
But it brings to the forefront the discussion of player safety once again. There is nothing more important in football than protecting and preventing future concussions. It brings to light the tenuous nature of what is just a game of football, no matter how much the masses enjoy the game.
There is the Thursday Night Football discussion in light of that player safety discussion. Is 3 days’ rest really enough to turn around and play such a physical sport? As anyone who has even played at a high school level will tell you, football is an incredibly taxing sport, and you need the full week to recoup your body. A Sunday to Thursday turnaround is one as brutal as any in professional sports.
Of course, money talks, and that is why Thursday Night Football exists in any capacity. Tagovailoa’s concussion only underscores the conversations around player safety. It is more than just a ‘bad look’ for the NFL. This injury underscores the brutality of a football itself.
And listen, all of the questions that will be asked of the NFL and Miami Dolphins are warranted right now. They deserve scrutiny and harsh inspection after what transpired from Sunday to Thursday with Tagovailoa’s injury. Those questions need to be asked by investigators, the media, and anyone else who is qualified to inquire about a situation that is so vital to the sport as a whole.
What has to happen from here? The NFLPA has to gather every shred of evidence they can in this situation. If Miami did follow protocols, fantastic. However, the brevity of a situation like this can not be understated. Every move at every corner of this situation needs to be met with scrutinization and detailed questioning.
If doctors like Nowinski are affirming such visceral reactions to this situation, it is of the utmost importance that an investigation into the situation is handled with care and detail. Knees can be replaced, but brains can not. The effects of CTE are known to us as an incredibly traumatic condition for former players.
If anything is shown from a situation such as this, the protocols may need to be even stricter. The NFL and its organizations have a duty to protect their players. Pressing on this situation to make sure all protocols were followed and Tagovailoa was not predisposed to a second concussion in less than a week is the top priority of what was a scary situation.