It’s been a turbulent fortnight for the NFL and its concussion protocols, with the league coming under intense scrutiny over the issue of players’ health.
The saga around Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, which ended in him being taken to the hospital after suffering a concussion in a scary looking incident, has raised a number of questions about the handling of head injuries.
An investigation is now underway into the handling of Tagovailoa’s apparent head injury, while the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who was involved in the quarterback’s first concussion evaluation is reportedly no longer working with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Friday that “we will get this right.”
Tagovailoa will miss the team’s next game against the New York Jets on Sunday.
“It’s too early to give a definite timeline,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said. “I can comfortably say he’ll be out for this game against the Jets. But anything beyond that, again we’re just focused on making sure he’s at optimal health and then crossing that bridge so it’s a little early for definitive timelines beyond that.”
McDaniel added that Tagovailoa was currently inside the team’s facility and has had “a couple good days.”
“He’s just trying to go through with the proper procedure and protocol so he’s feeling 100%,” McDaniel said. “I know he’s going to be diligent with it and if there’s obviously any things that are giving him issues in terms of lights and those things, we will shut that down.”
The beginning of the scrutiny
It all began on Sunday, September 25, in the Dolphins’ 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Tagovailoa was knocked out of the game briefly in the second quarter after a hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano forced the back of the Dolphins QB’s helmet to hit the turf.
The 24-year-old quarterback got up stumbling and was taken to the locker room for a concussion check. Milano was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty.
The Dolphins initially announced Tagovailoa was questionable to return to the game with a head injury, but he came back out onto the field in the third quarter and finished the game throwing for 186 yards and a touchdown.
Tagovailoa told reporters after the game that he fell onto his back before his head hit the turf causing his back to lock up and the resulting stumble. He added that he was evaluated for a concussion but was ultimately cleared.
McDaniel, the Dolphins head coach, alluded to a back injury after the game, saying that Tagovailoa back got “bent” on an earlier play but the hit “loosened his back” causing his legs to get wobbly. McDaniel added that Tagovailoa told him that his back was like “Gumby” – a reference to the classic green animated character.
Then, just four days later, Tagovailoa took to the field as the Dolphins played the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football.