Concussion protocol in the NFL and who is at fault

by Teddy Machera and Devin Smith

There is still a large debate over who is to blame for Dolphins player Tua Tagovaoila’s second concussion. In a press conference on September 29th, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was asked if he should’ve done anything differently when clearing Tagovailoa to play in the second half of the Buffalo Bills game to which he said “absolutely not.” McDaniel pointed out that there are several levels of experts who question and evaluate players for concussions when the protocol is needed. This also comes to the player and ultimately the only person who can tell if the player is concussed is the player themself. 

I asked our physical sports trainer Eric Hernandez about the concussion protocol for Glen Rock and if it was effective at catching concussions. He said, “Yes and no, the protocol is only as good as the communication between the player and the health professional.” 

And that with concussions sometimes there is a “gray area” where you really need “honesty with the athlete” If the NFL’s protocol is anything near ours, they should have caught Tua’s concussion. Teams rely on their athletes, and sometimes players might hide injuries because they don’t want to let their teams down. Players need to prioritize their health over the game. It might not be easy to walk away from your favorite game, but it should be harder to walk away from your health and future.

All of this talk about concussions should not scare you away from sports at all. Some form of sports or activity is essential for high school students and with the proper procedures, all sports can be safe. The fact of the matter is that sports are and are going to get safer for people to play. Protective pads, helmets, and proper education about concussions can help prevent them from happening, but the biggest issue is being honest with your coaches and trainers. 

On the other side of the argument, football players should prioritize their health over the game without a question. Former players such as Aaron Hernandez and Phillip Adams, both of whom had a brain disease caused by football (CTE), show the horrific effects concussions can have on somebody. It is important to prevent these cases from repeating themselves, and help save the future lives of current players such as that of Tua Tagovailoa. 

Sam Pittman, an exceptional football athlete who was forced to retire due to concussions said the following when asked if he thinks high school football players should value a potential future in football over their own safety, “I know how fun football can be, so I’m not going to say no. If you really love it, then that’s your decision to make.” As seen from this quote, many players will continue to play football even if they know safety is at risk, and most of the time will decide their future on their own. Regardless of age, the love for football that many players possess is prominent, and likely will overpower their understanding of the dangers of the sport. This love for football is needed, but understanding the risks of playing and reducing stigma around quitting are just as important. If a player has had multiple concussions, they should be forced to, or at the least be pushed to consider hanging up their jersey and quitting. 

Concussions will happen in football regardless and there will always be thousands of players at risk, so it is important to make the game as safe as possible for the people playing. As a solution, NFL players should always be enlightened of the risks they are posing themselves with by voluntarily playing, and should always be honest with their coaches. Even with an improving protocol and safer equipment, a good part of the decision still lies upon the player. If a player can take the proper steps and do the right thing, they can put themselves in the best position that minimizes the risk of injury.