Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was carried on a stretcher Thursday night during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and it is suspected he may have suffered a concussion.
“It was a scary moment,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “He was assessed for a concussion and he’s in concussion protocol. He was in the hospital. I believe he’s about to be discharged.”
Earlier this week, the league’s union said it would investigate the Dolphins for its concussion assessment process after Tagovailoa returned to the game following a first-half blow during of the September 25 game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Dolphins initially believed it was a head injury, but McDaniel returned the call and said Tagovailoa injured his back, and confirmed again Thursday night.
So how are teams supposed to assess head injuries?
How the NFL Defines a Concussion
The National Football League defines a sports-related concussion as “a traumatic brain injury induced by biomechanical forces”.
Concussions can be caused by direct blows to the head, face, neck or anywhere else on the body that transmits force to the head, according to the league.
Observable signs of a concussion include any loss of consciousness, seizures, delay in movement, difficulty with motor coordination or balance, blank staring, headache, confusion, amnesia, or visible facial injuries.
Pre-Season Concussion Protocols
All players and team employees should receive and review concussion education materials at the start of the season and then develop an emergency medical action plan.
Every two years, players must receive basic neurological assessment and testing before the start of the season. The tests can include a computer-based exam or a paper-and-pencil test, or a combination of the two and are administered every three years. Further tests may be administered if a player may have suffered a concussion.
Game day protocols
On game day, neurotrauma consultants (UNC) and unaffiliated athletic trainers are stationed on the sidelines and in a stadium booth to monitor the game for any signs of concussion.
If UNCs or athletic trainers, also known as pit spotters, see any sign of a concussion, they should contact the team physician to recommend a secondary examination. A UNC for the opposing team may also make the recommendation.
The player is first sent to the touchline to be checked, and if signs of concussion are identified, the player is sent to the locker room for further evaluation and must not return to play.
If a player is returned to the game before medical personnel have completed their assessments, the pit spotter may request a medical time-out until the assessment is complete.
Once a player has been diagnosed with a concussion, they are not allowed to meet or speak with the press or drive on the day of the injury.
Viewers are outraged by the Dolphins reaction
Many who watched the game were extremely critical of the Dolphins’ treatment of Tagovailoa over the past week, saying he shouldn’t have been allowed to play Thursday in the first place.
“The bottom line about Tua is LIFE is bigger than football,” former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “Teams must always put the person before the player. Health before competitive advantage. Getting Tua out is not just about player safety. It’s about quality of life.”
The bottom line about Tua is that LIFE is bigger than football. Teams should always put the person before the player. Health before competitive advantage.
Putting Tua out there isn’t just a player safety issue. It’s a question of quality of life.
—Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) September 30, 2022
Shannon Sharpe, NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports commentator said in a tweet he thinks the Dolphins misled that Tagovailoa suffered a back injury and not a head injury last week.
“It’s a serious injury,” he said in another. “Tua shouldn’t have been there with Sunday’s turnaround on Thursday. Sometimes players need to protect themselves. Dolphins failed Tua.”
It’s a serious injury. Tua shouldn’t have been there with Sunday’s change Thursday. Sometimes players need to protect themselves. Dolphins stranded in Tua
— Shannon Sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) September 30, 2022