'I'm feeling much better': Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa recovering after Thursday Night Football injury

Tagovailoa taken off the field on a stretcher
Dolphins Bengals Football
Dolphins Bengals Football
Posted at 9:46 PM, Sep 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-30 17:58:26-04

CINCINNATI — Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said he is focused on recovering after he was taken off the field on a stretcher in the second quarter of the Bengals-Dolphins Thursday Night Football game at Paycor Stadium.

"I want to thank everyone for all of their prayers and support since the game last night," Tagovailoa tweeted Friday evening. "It was difficult to not be able to finish the game and be there with my teammates, but I am grateful for the support and care I've received from the Dolphins, my friends and family, and all the people who reached out.

"I'm feeling much better and focused on recovering so I can get back out on the field with my teammates."

Tagovailoa was listed as questionable all week after an injury in the Dolphins' win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday. Tagovailoa left that game with what was originally described as a head injury, but returned in the second half. The team said he was dealing with a sore back and ankle.

In Thursday's game, Tagovailoa once again appeared to have a head injury after he was hit in the second quarter. Medical staff lifted him onto a stretcher, where he remained motionless. Fans chanted "Tua" as he was taken out of the stadium.

“It was a scary moment. He was evaluated for a concussion and he’s in the concussion protocol,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.

The Dolphins announced Tagovailoa sustained head and neck injuries. He was taken to UC Medical Center, where team officials said he was conscious and has movement in all extremities.

Several players and fans said they were praying for Tagovailoa after the hit. One player who shared his thoughts, Ryan Shazier, sustained a severe injury during a Monday Night Football game against the Bengals. Shazier had to undergo spinal stabilization surgery and his career ended as a result of the injury.

"May god be with you and hopefully okay," Shazier tweeted to Tagovailoa. "The staff in UC hospital do a great job with care. (You're) in great hands."

Thursday Night Football's Kaylee Hartung said coach Mike McDaniel told her Tagovailoa was 'conscious' and 'talking' after the hit, wanting to know what happened during the play. His family went to UCMC to meet him.

The Dolphins said Tagovailoa was discharged from the hospital and flew home with the team Thursday evening.

Some who watched the scary injury want to know why Tagovailoa was playing just four days after his quick return Sunday, which prompted a joint review by the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Many former players were critical of the decision to allow Tagovailoa to return against Buffalo and start against Cincinnati.

“Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission,” the NFLPA wrote on Twitter. “Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing.”

NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said the review usually takes a week or two.

“Every indication from our perspective is that it was,” Miller said about the team and its doctors following concussion protocol on Sunday. “I know the player, the coach and others have spoken to this. And we are engaged in that review now. So we’ll come back with a formal answer to that question, something that we want to engage in.”

Dolphins Bengals Football
Teammates gather around Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) after an injury during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

How was Tagovailoa cleared to return Sunday?

Tagovailoa appeared to be disoriented by what the team originally said was a head injury after taking a hard hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half. He missed just three snaps and returned after halftime. Tagovailoa and the team said a back injury was the reason for his instability after the hit and he wasn’t in concussion protocol. He was questionable to play on Thursday but started the game.

What is the NFL's concussion protocol?

A player who exhibits or reports symptoms or signs suggestive of a concussion or stinger enters protocol.

During each game, independent certified athletic trainers (ATC spotters) monitor the players on the field. If they see an impact to the head, they call a timeout and the player must be removed from the game, examined and evaluated. Team trainers, coaches or physicians, teammates, NFL game officials, sideline unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants (UNC) or booth ATCs also can initiate the protocol.

Any player in concussion protocol undergoes a six-step evaluation by a team physician and UNC to determine the severity of the injury and whether or not they’re fit to return to the field. The final step is a neurological evaluation featuring a cervical spine exam, including range of motion/pain, evaluation of speech, observation of gait, eye movements and pupillary exam.

If any elements are positive, inconclusive or suspicious of concussion, the player is escorted to locker room.

In the locker room, a team physician and UNC conducts a full neurological exam and complete NFL Standardized Concussion Assessment Tool.

If abnormal, the player doesn’t return to play, undergoes periodic evaluation by a medical team and has a follow-up neurological exam.

The league instituted the system in 2011 after Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy took a helmet-to-helmet hit in a game and returned without being tested for a concussion. The Browns said that the team’s trainers didn’t see the hit because they were tending to other players and that no one told them about it. After the game, McCoy was diagnosed with a concussion.

What's next for Tagoviloa?

The severity of Tagovailoa’s concussion is not known, but it's seemingly encouraging he was allowed to fly with the team. He must undergo a five-step process before being allowed to take the field again. The fifth phase is a full practice followed by clearance from the team physician. After that, he must be examined by an independent neurological consultant.

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