Tagovailoa debacle shows NFL still has a major concussion problem

Hey, NFL: Your concussion protocol has a problem.

After what happened to Tua Tagovailoa in the past few days, it is obvious the protocol is flawed or broken and needs to be fixed. Immediately.

The program works when a player suffers a serious concussion the way Tua did Thursday night against the Bengals when he was on the field for 10 minutes, taken off the field on a stretcher and immediately taken to the hospital, although they probably should have been allowed to fly back on the team plane.

The major problem is what happens in a situation like the one Tua faced against the Bills on Sunday when his head hit the turf and he shook his head when he got up and then stumbled to the ground,. but was able to get back up and walk off the field. 

He was taken to the locker room and cleared to return to the game by the team doctor and an independent neurologist. He finished the game and even did his post-game interview.

They followed the current protocol. A player who stumbles to the ground is allowed to return if he is cleared. 

That needs to change. The protocol should be changed to make it mandatory to sideline a player for the rest of the game if he stumbles to the ground. And he should not be allowed to play the following week and maybe multiple weeks so he has more time to heal. .

The league needs to set set mandatory rules because the team and the doctors can’t be trusted to follow common sense. The Dolphins said after the Bills game that he suffered a back injury and not a head injury. Even after the Bengals game, coach Mike McDaniel was still insisting he didn’t suffer a head injury against the Bills.

Do players stumble and fall from a back injury?

Of course, we will never know if the injury he suffered Sunday contributed to the concussion he suffered Thursday night. After all, brain injuries are difficult to diagnose. But it is well known that if a player suffers a concussion, he is more liable to suffer another one, especially if he returns to action too soon. Better to err on the side of caution. 

The NFL mindset on concussions definitely needs to be changed. After the Bengals game, McDaniel even said Tua had nothing more serious than a concussion.

He seems oblivious to the fact the concussions are the most serious injury a player can suffer. They can cause CTE and dementia or worse. Look at what happened to Muhammad Ali, who took too many blows to the head. You can replace hips and knees. You can’t replace brains. 

The NFL and NFLPA have to sit down and rewrite the concussion protocols. The NFLPA announced it was going to investigate Tua’s injury against Bills with interviews starting the day after the Bengals game. Obviously, that was too late.

It is time for the NFL and the NFLPA to act. They not only have to change the protocol, but the mindset. 

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