Once again, the National Football League has missed the boat and missed the point regarding concussion protocol and one of their players. Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, twice within a week suffered head injuries and after the first one was allowed to return to the field. That misstep led to the firing of the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who cleared Tua and allowed him to return.
It started when Tua was thrown to the ground by Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano after throwing a pass.
After getting up, he grabbed his head and stumbled. It was originally listed as a head injury but the Dolphins cleared him to return to the game after he cleared an exam. The Dolphins also stated the stumble was attributed to back and ankle injuries. Back and ankle injuries? Anyone who has ever witnessed a player get his clock cleaned and stumble the way Tua did, knows it wasn't due to a back or ankle injury. And anyone who assisted in making that decision should be fired and held accountable.
Just four days later, in a game against the Bengals, Tua was again thrown to the ground by a defensive lineman and this time, he didn't get up at all. He laid on the ground with his arms going rigid and his fingers curled in a "fencing" position. He was then placed on a stretcher and taken to a hospital by an ambulance, where he was later released and allowed to travel home with the team. There are still things that need to be investigated and they will be investigated this week.
After absorbing the initial hit in the game with the Bills, his stumble was clearly indicative of "gross motor instability" When that occurs, the NFL's concussion protocol specifies a complete evaluation. Tua was evaluated and allowed to return because his stumble was attributed to a back injury. You absolutely have to be kidding me! Tua himself stated that stumble was due to a back injury he suffered earlier in the game. So, who did the evaluation? Tua himself?
Head injuries are completely different from other football injuries. A broken leg or a torn ACL is easy to determine. A concussion is much tougher to evaluate but anytime a concussion is suspected, the right thing to do is err on the side of caution. No amount of money nor any win in an NFL game is worth the suffering that can be brought on by severe head injuries. My advice.... If you're going to have a true concussion protocol, enforce it. Take care of your players because without them, you have nothing.
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Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com