Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will not play against the New York Jets on Sunday after suffering a shocking head injury last week.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel announced the news on Monday, telling the media that Tagovailoa remained under “concussion protocol” after his injury Thursday in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
When a reporter asked McDaniel if he and Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier would consider putting Tagovailoa, 24, on injury reserve for four weeks, he said that “it’s too early to give a definite timeline” for the quarterback’s return.
The Dolphins coach also said that, although Tagovailoa has had “a couple of good days,” he’s trying to “go through the proper procedure and protocol so that he’s feeling 100%.”
During Thursday’s game against the Bengals, Tagovailoa was sacked by defensive tackle Josh Tupou. The frightening hit caused Tagovailoa’s head to bounce off the turf, which left him frozen flat on the field, with his fingers cramped uncontrollably, for several minutes.
His finger movements were a “fencing response,” which occurs when a person is knocked down with significant impact to their head during contact sports, according to an article by medical news site Healthline, which was reviewed by a medical doctor.
Team doctors and other emergency personnel put Tagovailoa on a stretcher and sent him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center via ambulance, according to CBS Sports. He was diagnosed with a concussion and had suffered back and neck injuries as a result of the hit.
Tagovailoa thanked fans and supporters for their concern after the game on Twitter, saying he’s “focused on recovering so I can get back out there on the field with my teammates.”
After Tagovailoa’s injury, fans and media members began to wonder if Tagovailoa’s reaction to being sacked Thursday had any connection to being hit in the back of the head four days early in a game against the Buffalo Bills.
During the Bills game on Sept. 25, Tagovailoa appeared to “exhibit concussion-like symptoms” after he was knocked on his back by linebacker Matt Milano, according to ESPN. As Tagovailoa fell backward, his head hit the turf. When Tagovailoa tried to shake off the hit, he stumbled to his feet and struggled to regain his balance before being helped by teammates. He was initially removed from the field for evaluation in the locker room but was later cleared to return to the game by a team physician and an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant.
After the conclusion of that game, the Dolphins said Tagovailoa struggled on the field because of a back injury.
The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) launched an investigation immediately after the Bengals game to determine whether the Dolphins followed the league’s concussion protocol during the Bills game by allowing him to return to play after such a short time span.
According to the NFL concussion protocol, gross motor instability means a player cannot return to the game if the “team physician, in consultation with the sideline UNC [unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant], determines the instability to be neurologically caused.”
Tagovailoa was listed on the Dolphins injury report as “questionable” prior to the Bengals game, according to CBS Sports.
As a result of their ongoing investigation, the NFLPA fired the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who evaluated Tagovailoa after the Bills game on Sept. 25, according to The Associated Press.
The NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement on Saturday that there will be “modifications to the Concussion Protocol,” which are needed to “enhance player safety” after Tagovailoa’s injury.
“The NFLPA’s Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee and the NFL’s Head Neck and Spine Committee have already begun conversations around the use of the term ‘Gross Motor Instability’ and we anticipate changes to the protocol being made in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process,” the statement said.