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Tua Tagovailoa controversy sparks advice from NFL great to younger generation about reporting head injuries

NFL greats Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy discussed Tua Tagovailoa’s scary head injury suffered in the Miami Dolphins’ Week 4 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Harrison and Dungy appeared on the “Football Sunday in America” pregame show before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. Harrison talked about the advice he would give his younger self about dealing with head injuries and strongly advised the younger generation of the game to take head injuries seriously.

“Number one, I would say, it’s not worth it. I was that guy. I would get hit, the entire stadium is spinning around, and I would go back into the game. It’s not worth it,” the former New England Patriots star said. 

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Medical staff tend to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins after an injury during the 2nd quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on September 29, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Andy Lyons/Getty Image)

“I would implore these young men, don’t go back on that football field if you get hurt because I don’t want them to feel like me and so many other former players that had to deal with concussions, whether it’s depression, anxiety, paranoia, broken relationships, not being able to communicate with your spouse, things like that. CTE takes you to a dark place and I want these players to know it’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself. Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Dungy agreed there should be better safeguards in place should players tell coaches they feel OK without actually being OK.

“Nobody’s going to think you’re soft or weak or anything like that if you’re reporting,” Harrison added. “So, please, I’ll tell you again, please report it if something’s wrong with your head because life after football is serious. Five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, you’re going to feel the effects of CTE.”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is sacked by Cincinnati Bengals' Josh Tupou (68) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Cincinnati. 

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is sacked by Cincinnati Bengals’ Josh Tupou (68) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Cincinnati. 
(G3 Box News Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

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Dungy added that teams should have a bye week before playing a Thursday night game.

Tagovailoa was taken out of Thursday night’s game with a head injury. He was tackled and slammed to the ground by a Bengals defensive lineman. The injury coupled with him taking a hard shot against the Buffalo Bills just four days before the Bengals heightened the concern around him. He would travel with the team back home after being discharged from the hospital.

Since then, the NFL Players Association reportedly fired the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who evaluated Tagovailoa on Sunday against the Bills. The NFL and the NFLPA launched a joint review into the decision by the doctor to clear Tagovailoa and allow him back into the game.

There are three unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants at each game and are jointly paid by the league and the union to work with team physicians to diagnose concussions.

Safety Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots warms up before playing against the New York Giants on August 28, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Safety Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots warms up before playing against the New York Giants on August 28, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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The NFL and the NFLPA said they made no conclusions about “medical errors or protocol violations” while the investigation is still ongoing. But the two added that “modifications are needed … to enhance player safety.” The said they expected “changes to the (concussion) protocol” to happen “in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process.”

The G3 Box News contributed to this report.

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