Tua Tagovailoa entered the NFL’s concussion protocol on Monday, a day after he appeared to suffer a head injury while playing against the Green Bay Packers.
The incident raised two key questions: Why was Tagovailoa’s injury not revealed during the game, and should he continue to play after suffering multiple head injuries this season? The NFL and the NFLPA’s top doctors addressed both questions on Tuesday.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told NFL Network that nothing from Sunday’s game should have triggered the NFL’s concussion protocol for the Miami Dolphins quarterback. The record is only triggered when a player takes a hit to the head and then shows symptoms of the injury. Tagovailoa did not show symptoms during the game, according to Seals.
“What our spotters and our non-participating neurophysicians are looking for is any impact that transmits force to the head or neck, followed by injury behavior,” Sills said. “And so, during the game, there are a lot of blows to the head.
“There were no visible signs, although there was a blow to the head, and the player did not show any symptoms despite being in contact with medical staff throughout the game. So there was nothing the protocol would suggest. that moment.”
Seals noted that anyone involved in the game can report symptomatic behavior, including the injured player, his teammates, coaches and officials. According to Sills, no one mentioned Tagovailoa as a symptom on Sunday.
Dr. Tom Mayer, the NFL Players Association’s chief medical adviser, told USA Today on Tuesday that the NFLPA is reviewing footage and reports from the NFL’s neurotrauma consultants at Sunday’s game to see if anything was missed.
“We’re moving in a logical sequence to review and see what’s out there,” Mayer said.
Here’s the play widely believed to be responsible for Tagovailoa’s eventual entry into the record.
The back of his head bounced off the grass. similar to the week 3 injury it saw Tagovailoa cut by the Buffalo Bills. He returned to finish that game and played the following week against the Cincinnati Bengals. He finished that game in the hospital after another blow to the head forced him to leave the field on a stretcher.
Should Tagovailoa play again?
That leads to the next question. Should Tagovailoa play in Week 17 against the Patriots or at all the rest of the season? The obvious head injury was not properly diagnosed at week 3 and he ended up in the hospital at week 4. If the protocol failed him before, who’s to say it won’t be discovered again, even if it’s revised?
Several former NFL players, including Robert Griffin III, Booger McFarland and Charles Woodson, said Monday that the risk is too great and that Tagovailoa should not play again in 2022. if ever.
Sill pointed to the protocol Tuesday, which requires Tagovailoa to go through a multi-step process with the team and independent neurologists before being cleared by the Dolphins. He also acknowledged that medical science is unable to accurately predict future injury risk and refrained from making a recommendation for Tagovailoa.
“And what I would say is that in anything of this nature, the team is going to be very conservative,” Sills continued. “Because at the end of the day, our protocol is to make sure the athlete has recovered, but we still can’t really assess the risk of future injury with today’s technology.
“And so what we have to do is make sure that the athlete is fully recovered and then make sure that their voice and their autonomy is respected in the decision-making process.”
Meanwhile, Mayer suggested it’s too early to make any calls on Tagovailoa’s status for Week 17 or beyond.
“But I completely understand the logic that people are saying. “Hey, he’s got to sit out the whole year,” Mayer said. “There will be people who will say he should retire, it’s a whole spectrum of options.
“It’s kind of a Chapter 24. We are now in Chapter 1. So we’ll just go through the chapters logically and give advice to the player who ultimately makes the decision.”
The Dolphins, medical staff and Tagovailoa have four days to figure out the next step before Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. They will do so amid the competing interests of the Dolphins’ playoff fate and Tagovailoa’s health.