Tua Tagovailoa’s “Back” Injury Shows That The NFL Still Isn’t Right In The Head

We need to talk about Tua Tagovailoa. 

In the Miami Dolphins 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills, a game that featured Ken Dorsey trashing the coaching booth and a punt safety off someone’s booty cheeks, the real thing we should all be reflecting on is the insane decision to send Tua back into the game after he was clearly concussed in the second quarter. 

If you haven’t seen it, Tua Tagovailoa took a hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano, and his head bounced off the field. Tua looked like he was shaking off some dizziness when he first stood up, and after taking a couple of steps, he fell to his knees and had to be helped up. Tua was taken to the locker room, and the Dolphins informed the press that he’d be questionable to return with a head injury. 

Suddenly, in the second half, Tua was back out there, and the explanation that was given was that back spasms from a prior hit led to his wobbly legs.

I’ve had multiple back surgeries stemming from my time in the NFL, but you don’t have to be a former professional athlete to know what a back spasm feels like. If Tua’s back was seizing up, he’s not getting to his feet twice in 10 seconds. When you’re in the middle of a back spasm, you’re lucky to be able to breathe, much less get to your feet. 

We live in an age where people have 4k 1080p HD televisions, and it’s gaslighting to say that the thing the entire country saw as clear as day, didn’t happen.

Under no circumstances should Tua have been allowed to return to that game after showing signs of a concussion.

Now I’ve seen people say that it’s Tua’s responsibility to pull himself out of the game if he feels concussed, but why are we depending on the judgement of someone that just had their brain scrambled to make the best decision for his future? That’s like someone downing a bottle of Bacardi 151 and saying they feel fine to drive themselves home- there’s a chance based on the circumstances that they aren’t using their best judgement. 

NFL team doctors have to protect players from themselves, especially a guy like Tua, who is the ultimate team guy, and has the pressure of knowing that his owner Stephen Ross has spent the last two years looking for any and every reason to replace him. Ross was willing to risk his reputation to pursue Deshaun Watson, and lose draft picks and cash over tampering with Tom Brady. Beyond that, Tua’s second contract is around the corner, and there are hundreds of millions of reasons for a guy like Tua to try and play through a brain injury. 

Yeah, it would be nice for Tua to ensure that his grandkids never want for anything, but it would be a lot better if he didn’t struggle to remember their names. 

The NFLPA has launched an investigation to ensure the Dolphins have proper concussion protocol, and that’s the right move, but the better move is to be proactive, not reactive. 

An NFL franchise isn’t worth a damn without a commitment to the health and safety of its players, and right now, the Miami Dolphins aren’t worth a damn.

Let that sink in.