Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa Hospitalized After Second Head Hit in Two Games

Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa Hospitalized After Second Head Hit in Two Games

The Miami quarterback left Thursday’s game on a stretcher after his head was slammed to the turf for the second time in five days. The players’ union has asked for an investigation of his team’s handling of the concussion protocol.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was carted off the field on a stretcher during a game Thursday night after he appeared to experience his second head injury in less than a week when he was thrown to the ground, hitting his head on the turf.

The injury, in a nationally televised prime-time game, came only days after the N.F.L. players union began an investigation into the Dolphins’ handling of another head hit sustained by Tagovailoa in his previous game. The N.F.L. said this week that it welcomed that investigation, but Tagovailoa’s new injury is certain to renew questions about the league’s concussion protocols, and highlight concerns that head injuries in football need not be particularly violent to cause lasting damage to players.

Midway through the second quarter of a game between Miami and the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, Tagovailoa dropped back to pass around midfield. Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou grabbed Tagovailoa, spun him around and threw him to the ground. Tagovailoa’s elbow hit the ground first, and then the back of his helmet.

Tagovailoa immediately raised his hands with his fingers splayed, a gesture called a “fencing response” that can be a sign of brain injury. Dolphins trainers ran onto the field and, after several minutes, put Tagovailoa on a stretcher and wheeled him off the field while his concerned teammates stood nearby.

A few minutes after the injury, the game’s television broadcasters announced that Tagovailoa had sustained head and neck injuries, was conscious and had been taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Dolphins Coach Mike McDaniel told a sideline reporter that the injury was a “scary moment.”

“That was an emotional moment that is not part of the deal that anyone signs up for even though you know it’s a possibility in football to have something that you have to be taken off on a stretcher,” McDaniel said after the game.

“All of his teammates, myself, we’re all very concerned. So the best news we can give is that everything is checked out that he didn’t have anything more serious than a concussion. He’ll be flying back with us here on the plane.”

Chris Nowinski, the chief executive of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, who has often criticized the N.F.L.’s handling of concussions, was unsparing in his criticism of the handling of the player’s health.
In the second quarter of that game, in Miami Gardens, Fla., Tagovailoa was pushed to the ground and hit the back of his head on the turf. He immediately grabbed the sides of his helmet, staggered to his feet and, after taking a few steps, briefly collapsed to his knees as he tried to return to the huddle.

Tagovailoa walked off the field and spent the rest of the first half in the locker room, but he returned to play in the second half.

His return prompted the N.F.L. Players Association to begin an inquiry into the Dolphins’ handling of the injury, an option added to the collective bargaining agreement in 2020. The process includes reviewing video and interviewing team and league doctors who evaluated Tagovailoa. The process can take weeks.