The Fallout Begins From Tagovailoa Brain Injury: Doctor Who Cleared Him Fired, Concussion Protocols to Be Changed

Injured Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

On Friday we reported about the terrifying brain injury Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered in a Thursday night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Tua was slammed to the turf and exhibited signs of the “fencing response,” in which a person’s arms go into an unnatural position after suffering a traumatic brain injury. It was scary to watch.


The outcry among pundits, doctors, and former and current players was swift—because Tagovailoa had experienced what looked like another disturbing injury just four days earlier in a game against the Buffalo Bills. After that hit, Tua stumbled around in apparent disorientation and even fell to the ground. However, he was inexplicably allowed to finish the game and even suit up for the Thursday night Bengals matchup.

The question around the league and around the country was, “why was he allowed to play?!”

The fallout from the incident inevitably came Saturday, as the doctor who cleared him to play was fired, and the league announced it was immediately updating its concussion protocols. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come in time to help Tua.

Profootballtalk announced the termination of the unidentified doctor:

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA [NFL Players Association] has exercised its prerogative to terminate the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant involved in the decision to clear Tua to return to action.

Although specific findings have not been made regarding how and why Tua returned, the union lost confidence in the UNC, given that the impairment of the player was obvious. Based on the available video, Tua should not have returned.


If you’ve seen the video of Sunday’s hit, you know that you don’t have to be a doctor to conclude that Tagovailoa was clearly not himself, and was in no condition to continue the game. Ravens coach John Harbaugh seemed to agree:

“I couldn’t believe what I saw last Sunday,” Harbaugh said regarding Tua clearly wobbling and later returning to the game. “It was just something that was astonishing to see. I’ve been coaching for 40 years now, college in the NFL, almost 40, and I’ve never seen anything like it before. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Luckily, the third-year star quarterback out of Alabama returned home Friday, and seemed in good spirits:

However, his long-term prognosis is unknown. Meanwhile, the NFL quickly went into damage control mode, and declared that concussion protocols would be updated imminently, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

The NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement Saturday that an investigation into the situation is ongoing and that they have not made any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations. But they added that they anticipate changes to those protocols in the coming days based on the probe.

The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety.


At issue is the phrase in the current protocols that say a player is a no-go if he experiences “gross motor instability” that was “neurologically caused.” This is the loophole apparently used by the Dolphins—they said it was back injury that caused Tua’s unsteadiness, not neurological issues, thus paving the way to get him back in action. The words “neurologically-caused” will presumably be stricken post-haste, and any player appearing obviously disoriented will heretofore need to step off the field.

The situation is doubtless complicated, and millions of dollars are potentially at stake when a star player is unable to play. However, I can’t help but think this is not a good look for Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel who didn’t seem to get that a major mistake was made:

“I get the optics, I get how it looks like, I get all of this, I get people’s concern,” he said.

“I can exude with 100 percent conviction that every person in this building had 100 percent the correct process, diligence and there is not one person you could talk to in the building that would think otherwise.”

People outside the building think otherwise, Coach. Said NFLPA President JC Tretter:


A failure in medical judgement is a failure of the protocols when it comes to the well being of our players. We have come a long way over the past 15 years but the last week proves how far we have left to go.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos