Tua Tagovailoa’s Journey Back is a Blow to the NFL

Tua Tagovailoa’s Journey Back is a Blow to the NFL

On Sunday, Oct. 3, Tua Tagovailoa returned after a concussion in the Thursday night matchup against the Bengals. He went for 261 passing yards and one passing touchdown. Although his return sparked much joy from fans across the country, it still brought much speculation about the safety of NFL players.

During week three of the 2022 NFL season, Tua Tagovailoa faced a late hit forcing him to the ground during a play against the Buffalo Bills. The young quarterback returned to his feet rapidly and seemed to be okay. After a few further steps, he lost his balance and required assistance from his teammates. The scary hit was seen by millions of fans and left people questioning how the doctors allowed him to continue to play in the game. He needed to be taken to the sideline and allowed to continue the game after the half. He went on to win the matchup 21-19.

Following the game, the doctor responsible for clearing Tagovailoa was fired. An NFL spokesman criticized the fired neurological doctor, saying there was “every indication,” implying that there was no reason that Tagovailoa should’ve been allowed to play. It is the NFL’s duty and responsibility to keep their players safe and healthy. One of their rules and regulations to enforce this is players who seem to have been involved in a big hit to the head must be cleared by neurological team doctors before continuing to play. The Dolphins failed to do this, and the consequences were shown in the following weeks. 

The week following Tagovailoa’s game against the Bills, Tua was cleared to play by the team doctor. Tua played through to the second half, where Tagovailoa was taken down with a relatively normal sack. After further review, fans, NFL representatives, and players saw the blow Tua suffered from being slammed to the grass. He rested on the floor for several minutes with his hands suspended. Doctors immediately recognized it as a neurological response of the body after a blow to the head. He was put onto a stretcher and transported to the hospital. 

The NFL’s concussion protocol and doctors were met with tension from the press. The sight of Tagovailoa’s injury left fans and the press demanding answers from officials. The spokesman stated, “The protocol exists to establish a high standard of concussion care for each player.” Although they continue to try and make advancements to meet these standards, their weekly concussion injuries fail them. Tagovailoa’s concussion brought the attention needed to the NFL’s unstable and unreliable safety protocols. 

The NFL implemented new regulations for concussion protocols hoping for better results in the football community. Tagovailoa responded by saying, “For me, I’m all for player safety, but when I hear guys saying, ‘That’s the Tua rule,’ or ‘This is a rule because of Tua,’ I don’t want to be known as that.”

Despite all the tension set on the Dolphins and NFL, Tua made his return after missing two straight games. The stage was set for him on Sunday, October 23. In his return game, Tagovailoa was able to get back on his winning track. While some believed him to be rusty and took a loss against a tough Steelers defense, he defied the odds and came out with the win. He threw for 261 yards and a touchdown. The win was exciting and hopeful for fans and the young quarterback.