NFL concussion controversy

October 03, 2022
NFL player safety remains under scrutiny as the fallout from the mishandling of Miami Dolphins quarterback (QB) Tua Tagovailoa’s (TUNG-o-vai-LOA) apparent head injuries continues.
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SOURCE: ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: NFL player safety remains under scrutiny as the fallout from the mishandling of Miami Dolphins quarterback (QB) Tua Tagovailoa’s (TUNG-o-vai-LOA) apparent head injuries continues.

The timeline: The controversy began last Sunday when Tagovailoa returned to play in Miami’s loss to the Buffalo Bills despite noticeably staggering following a hit that sent him to the locker room for evaluation.

  • The Dolphins later claimed their QB1 suffered a back injury on the play, not a concussion.
  • Then the scary situation turned downright terrifying when the QB sustained another hard hit during his team’s Thursday Night Football matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals and had to be stretchered off the field.

The latest: The NFL and NFLPA are still investigating how concussion protocol was applied to Tagovailoa in Week 3, but the NFLPA had apparently seen enough — on Saturday they dismissed the unaffiliated neurologist who advised the Dolphins’ team doctor during last Sunday’s evaluation.

  • For context: players who enter protocol are evaluated by a team doctor and an unaffiliated neurologist approved by both the league and the union.
  • Meanwhile, the league and the union also agreed on protocol modifications — including a new rule preventing players who demonstrate “instability” from returning to the game — which are expected to be introduced in the coming days. About damn time.

Zooming out: In a league that praises physicality and “football culture” (aka playing through the pain), this is hardly the first time NFL player safety has been questioned.

  • And it’s no secret that head injuries are a primary cause for concern — the dangers of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), for example, are only beginning to be understood.
  • The reassessment of the concussion protocol is a welcome start, but there’s clearly a lot of work needed to be done if the league truly wants to prioritize player safety. This issue isn’t going anywhere.
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