The people paid to spot potential head trauma during NFL games failed (again) to do their jobs. The NFL is (again) circling the wagons in any effort to persuade fans and media that all is well.
Appearing on NFL Network (i.e., a league-owned outlet that isn’t naturally inclined to pose tough questions to in-house colleagues), NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills defended the handling of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa‘s latest concussion.
Because of course he did.
“What our spotters and our unaffiliated neuro doctors are looking for is any blow that transmits force to the head or neck area, followed by that injury behavior,” Sills said, via Jason Owens of Yahoo Sports. “And so, there are many blows to the head that occur during a game. . . . There were no visible signs present, even though there was a blow to the head and the player did not report any symptoms, despite being in contact with the medical staff throughout the game. So, there was nothing that would have triggered the protocol in the moment.”
That’s an adroit way of tiptoeing around the reality that the player/patient’s specific history should have compelled a concussion evaluation during the game, after Tua hit his head on the turf. Whether anyone noticed any symptoms during the game is one thing. Whether anyone noticed a blow to the head that should have resulted in a simple sideline examination of Tua for any symptoms whatsoever is another.
Dr. Sills, frankly, is adept at maneuvering his way through the potential land mines that lurk after a situation like this happens. He can, with confidence and authority, say whatever needs to be said to make it sound like everything was handled properly. Even if it wasn’t.
In this case, the question isn’t whether Tua should have been placed in the protocol. It’s whether he should have had a proper evaluation, based on the fact that his head struck the turf.
Obviously, something happened to Tua. A day later, he had sufficient symptoms to land in the protocol. The comments from Dr. Sills gloss over the simple reality that maybe, just maybe, someone should have taken a close look at Tua during, not after, the game.