Latest NFL-NFLPA joint review of Tua Tagovailoa concussion exposes flaws in system

Latest NFL-NFLPA joint review of Tua Tagovailoa concussion exposes flaws in system

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On the surface, the NFL and the NFL Players Association exonerated the Dolphins and league employees apparently responsible for detecting possible concussions and ordering concussion evaluations.

On a deeper level, the decision that everything was handled correctly exposes real flaws in the overall process, as it is undeniable that: (1) Tua Tagovailoa suffered a concussion; and (2) he continued to play after suffering a concussion.

These two factors set the stage for a potentially serious health outcome. This happens several times a year at the secondary level. Second impact syndrome. A second brain injury immediately after a first brain injury. Swelling of the brain that gets out of hand and can be fatal.

While the system created by the league and the union to spot potential concussions worked well last Sunday, the system created by the league and the union to spot potential concussions is not working properly. Because a player with a concussion was continuously exposed to a second.

The biggest flaw, as a source familiar with the overall process explained on Saturday, continues to be the reluctance of many players not to self-report a possible concussion. This happens for various reasons.

First, the player’s brain is potentially altered. He may not even realize he has symptoms.

Second, very few players are comfortable with the idea of ​​voluntarily retiring. Remember when Ben Roethlisberger did this and everyone said, “Culture has changed! This is not the case. Some players have the luxury of raising their hand and saying, “Maybe I should quit the game.” Most players fear being Wally Pipping themselves.

For Tua, who is already much more closely identified with the traumatic brain injury he wants to be, it’s even less likely that he willfully add another layer to the scarlet letter on his helmet.

So what can be done, beyond more aggressive training and getting players to speak up when they think they may have suffered a concussion? For players who have had at least one documented concussion in a given season, perhaps a different standard should apply regarding when a concussion evaluation will take place.

The current protocol requires an assessment when a player hits their head and there is associated injury behavior. For a player like Tua, who has already suffered at least one and possibly (probably) two concussions this year when his head hit the turf, perhaps the approach should have been that whenever he hits his head on the grass, he gets a secondary evaluation. .

And perhaps the larger approach should be that players will have individualized protocols based on their own specific stories. For some players, observers would watch for a hit to the head and the associated behavior. For others, like Tua, a forceful blow to the head would suffice for quick control, at a minimum.

Does it place too much of a burden on the professionals monitoring the game? If so, get more. If two isn’t enough, take three. If there aren’t enough, take four. Etc.

If NFL players are to be treated as patients, the league and union should have the capacity in place to help ensure that each player-patient receives the appropriate care and attention. While the player has an absolute obligation to help themselves, the league and union must recognize that many will not, which will require additional measures to protect players from the potential development of second impact syndrome. .

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