Concussions in the NFL and finding the right way to prevent them

Pat Raidt ’24

Staff Writer

Injuries are an inherent risk of any sport, and football is no exception. Due to the high contact nature of the sport, football has the highest player injury rate by far compared to any other sport, with the worst of which being head injuries. With links being made in recent years between tragic conditions such as CTE and football, the NFL has attempted to make strides to improve player safety, but recent events have shown that there is still a lot more work to be done.

 In week three of this year’s NFL season in a game against the Buffalo Bills, Dolphins star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit the ground hard after attempting to complete a pass late in the second quarter, and it became very apparent very quickly that something was not quite right with the young quarterback. After the play had ended Tua appeared extremely disoriented and could even be seen collapsing under his own weight. Although he was brought into the locker room for the final two minutes of the half as backup Teddy Bridgewater stepped in, Tua was brought back into the game at the start of the second half to eventually lead the Dolphins to a 21-19 win. 

As reported in a tweet by NFL insider Ian Rapoport, Tua “tweaked his back in the 1st quarter on a sneak and didn’t miss time. After the Matt Milano hit, his back locked up — leading to him wobbling. Into the locker room for a full concussion check. Fully cleared. Now on the field.” The Dolphins themselves would echo this point after the game as they claimed that Tua simply suffered a back injury and that all was no worries in regards to his head as he had passed the concussion protocol. 

This response however did not sit well with many NFL fans, and their concerns would be justified just four days later as the Dolphins took center stage against the Bengals for Thursday Night Football. The game started off fine enough, with Tua taking the helm at starting quarterback as usual, but it was just under the six minute mark in the second quarter that things took a turn for the worse as he was sacked by Bengals nose tackle Josh Tupou, and Tua’s head once again went slamming into the ground. His joints, especially his fingers, quickly went stiff which led to a shocking sight that football fans all across the country bore witness to. This made it dramatically clear that even if there was nothing wrong before, there most certainly was now, as physical reactions like that are clear signs of a severe brain injury. He was then quickly rushed off the field on a stretcher and into an ambulance to be brought to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (a Level 1 trauma center) for further examinations, but in the wake, the NFL world was stunned, and many fans were stunned, asking “How could this happen?” 

Many fans took to Twitter to voice their thoughts and concerns with many, such as Dr. Chris Nowinski, calling for action and accountability, tweeted, “Fire the medical staff and coaches. I predicted this and I hate that I am right. Two concussions in 5 days can kill someone. This can end careers.” Former NFL tight end Shanon Sharp simply tweeted, “[The] Dolphins failed Tua.” 

In the weeks since this incident, many actions have been taken, the first of which involved the firing of the medical examiner who cleared Tua from the concussion protocol which led him to play. The NFLPA has also since opened an investigation into not only this incident, but to reevaluating the NFLs concussion protocol as a whole to better protect its players. However, as the NFL season has progressed since Tua’s tragic injury, one trend that has occurred that could lead many to believe that the NFL is going on damage control is the increased amount of questionable roughing the passer calls in recent weeks.

In every season there are always a handful of questionable calls that get dissected all over social media and by different news outlets, but in just the past two weeks alone there have been three of these controversial calls that have left many scratching their heads. The first of which occurred during the week five game between the Buccaneers and the Falcons where a seemingly normal and routine sack on veteran QB Tom Brady ended up potentially costing the Falcons the game as it was called for roughing the passer. That same week Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson was also called for roughing the passer on Lions quarterback Jared Goff even though he was not even brought to the ground by the Patriots defenceman. And finally, in the week six matchup between the Bills and the Chiefs, a roughing the passer call was made after Bills quarterback Josh Allen was seemingly tapped on the chinstrap, which led many online to debate on whether or not the right call had been made with Allen himself even saying the week before the game that “There needs to be something done” when referring to all these roughing the passer calls.  Head injuries like concussions are dangerous experiences that could even potentially become life threatening when not treated properly. Unfortunately, with a sport like football avoiding these injuries is easier said than done, and although there has been developments in major years to protect players from these drastic injuries, the incident involving Tua Tagovailoa shows that there is still much more progress to be made. However, the solution to this problem does not lie in the increase of roughing the passer calls that have seemingly occurred since Tua’s injury, which has also shown to have game changing results. The answer to this problem will not appear overnight, but with the issue of head injuries now in the public eye more than ever and the NFLPA becoming active in changing the current concussion protocol, hopefully this will mark the beginning for the NFL to better improve the safety of its players.

Photo by David Santiago/Miami Herald

Categories: Sports

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