On Friday, we wrote about the horrifying brain injury that Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was struck with during the course of a Wednesday Night Football match against the Cincinnati Bengals. Tua was hit and then showed indications of a “fencing response,” which means that a player's arms move in a strange position following a brain injury. It was terrifying to watch.
The outcry from doctors, pundits, and players from the past and present was swift, because Tagovailoa suffered what appeared to be another painful injury only four days after an encounter with the Buffalo Bills. After the hit, Tua stumbled around in apparent disorientation and eventually dropped to his knees. However, he was allowed to continue the game and then even get dressed for the Bengals match.
The issue that was raised in the league and across the nation was “why did he get to play?!”
The repercussions of the incident naturally came over the weekend when the physician who had cleared him to participate was dismissed and the league also announced it was in the process of making changes to its concussion protocol. However, the update doesn't arrive with enough time to aid Tua.
Footballtalk announced the end of the unidentified doctor:
According to a source aware of the matter, The NFL Players Association has had their right to suspend the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant that was part of the decision to permit Tua to resume actions.
While no specific conclusions have been released regarding the reason Tua returned to the UNC, the union has lost faith in the UNC due to the fact that the injury the athlete suffered was obvious. Based on the evidence available, Tua should not have returned.
If you've watched the footage of Sunday's rogue game, you'll realize that you don't need to be a medical professional to conclude that Tagovailoa wasn't himself and that he was not in good health to play the game. Ravens Coach John Harbaugh seemed to agree:
“I couldn't believe what I saw last Sunday,” Harbaugh stated in reference to Tua obviously wobbling and then returning to the field. “It was an event that was amazing to observe. I've been a coach for 40 years, including in college, and I've never witnessed something like this before. I was shocked by what I was witnessing.”
Fortunately, the third-year top quarterback from Alabama was able to return home on Friday and appeared to be in good spirits.
But his long-term outlook is not known. In the meantime, the NFL immediately went into repair mode and declared that concussion guidelines will be revised soon in line with what The Wall Street Journal states:
“The NFL and NFLPA issued a joint statement released on Saturday saying they are conducting an inquiry into the matter and they haven't made any decisions regarding medical mistakes or violations of protocol. However, they also said that they are expecting adjustments to these procedures in the next few days, based on the investigation.”
The NFL and the NFLPA are of the opinion that changes in the Concussion Protocol are needed to increase the safety of players.
The issue is in the current protocol that states that a player is not allowed to play if he has “gross motor instability” that was “neurologically caused.” This is the loophole allegedly used by the Dolphins. They claimed that the back injury was what caused Tua's instability, not neurological reasons, opening the door to getting Tua back on the field. The words “neurologically-caused” will presumably be stricken post-haste, and any player appearing obviously disoriented will therefore need to step off the field.
The situation is definitely complex as millions could be at stake when a top player isn't able to participate. It's hard to imagine that this is not a great option on the part of Dolphins manager Mike McDaniel who didn't appear to realize the serious mistake that was made.
“I get the optics, I get how it looks, I get all of this, I get people's concern,” he declared.
“I can exude with 100 percent conviction that every person in this building had 100 percent followed the correct process and diligence, and there is not one person you could talk to in the building that would think otherwise.”
Outside, people believe otherwise, and NFLPA President JC Tretter said:
“Failure to make a medical judgment is a breach of guidelines for the safety of the players. We've come a long way in the last 15 years, however the last week shows how far we are still able to take us.”