The NFL Owes Tua Tagovailoa an Apology

By Max Ferguson, Contributing Writer

It is not uncommon for football players to suffer concussions. However, there are rules and safeguards in place that are supposed to protect players. Although they are not foolproof, the failure to prevent Tua Tagovailoa from suffering two back-to-back concussions in his most recent games versus the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts is the most egregious example of the NFL’s failure to protect players in recent memory. 

Tagovailoa is no stranger to bad injuries. During his time at Alabama, he suffered a severe hip injury that prematurely ended his college career. He went through surgery, made a strong recovery, and was selected fifth overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2020 NFL Draft. His rookie season went smoothly, only missing one game in week twelve. In 2021, he suffered a rib fracture in the second week of regular season play. He also managed to fracture his finger in his left hand, making him miss week nine versus the Houston Texans. 

In the third week of this season, Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano hit Tagovailoa, causing him to fall back and suffer severe whiplash. All angles of the play show that Tagovailoa’s neck did in fact bend back, causing his head to bounce off the turf. Tagovailoa tried to stand, took three disoriented steps and then stumbled. He had to be carted out of the game. Somehow, he was able to pass concussion protocol. During the game, Dolphins training staff disclosed that he suffered a head injury but then later changed their statement to claim he suffered a back injury, an after-the-fact reversal that many consider shady.

In the next game versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Tagovailoa suffered another injury. Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou body slammed Tagovailoa. Tua was unable to move at all and his hands immediately contracted into a horrific sight. He had to be carted out of that game, too. 

The NFL egregiously mishandled this entire situation. According to the Dolphins organization, Tagovailoa’s concussion protocol exam was conducted by an outsourced doctor after his first hit. This is the doctor who ruled that he suffered a back injury after the game. This was most certainly a move to keep Tagovailoa in play for as long as possible, putting his health at extreme risk. Not only did his performance take a hit, but he also risked even more serious brain trauma (such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE) when he suffered his second concussion.

That the Dolphins were able to outsource concussion testing is the most questionable part of this situation. How could an NFL franchise not have the resources on hand to conduct a concussion test in-house? It is outrageous that the Dolphins allowed Tagovailoa to suit up against the Bengals on Thursday night. Even if it were only a back injury, he would have run the risk of paralysis had he been struck again in the same area. 

Tagovailoa is the Dolphins’ franchise player. He is the glue that makes their offense get from one end of the field to the other. However, just because a man is a team’s best player does not give them the right to risk his health to keep him in the game at all costs. Tagovailoa should have been benched in the Thursday night football matchup against the Bengals. 

Another questionable piece of this puzzle is Josh Tupou’s sack against Tagovailoa. Tupou had two hands locked around Tagovailoa, and driving forward could have simply taken him down. However, Tupou decided to whip him around and body slam him. What was the need for such a tackle? Flinging the opposition quarterback like a ragdoll is unwarranted, to say the least. The NFL regularly puts out material on how to tackle while minimizing injury. What happened here? Will Tupou receive any sort of punishment?

The issue here is not exclusive to professional football. Across all levels of sports, the telltale signs of concussions are frequently ignored for fear of an athlete being benched to recover. We, as both athletes and fans, need to hold our favorite teams and coaches accountable when they make a decision against the wellbeing of one of their players. One loss is not worth putting an athlete’s life in danger.

Note: All game information provided by ESPN. Reports regarding Tagovailoa’s injuries provided by the Miami Dolphins.


Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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