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Still a Long Road Ahead for Concussion in Sport

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Photo: Associated Press

By Anja Kuys, Isabelle Fuell, and Dr. Robert L. Herron |

During Thursday night’s NFL broadcast, viewers held their breath as Tua Tagovailoa – QB for the Miami Dolphins – was carted off the field on stretcher after suffering what many suspect to have been his second concussion of the week.

Four days prior, on Sunday, Tagovailoa was removed from the Dolphins game versus the Buffalo Bills to be evaluated for a concussion. While it has been reported that Tagovailoa passed the league-mandated concussion protocol, it is hard for many viewers to unsee what they saw.

About 100 hours later, the scene Thursday night was much more horrific. Tagovailoa was sacked and his head slung hard to the ground. Immediately, Tua showed classic symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) – his hands and arms frozen in a distorted fencing response. It was hard to watch and much worse to experience. Luckily, Tua was evaluated at a nearby hospital and cleared to return home for continued monitoring.

We wish Tua a quick and full recovery.

It is true that sport-related concussion awareness is having a moment; but we cannot stop now. Brain health is important. The phrase, “it is just a concussion” is flippantly used to dismiss and minimize the realities of traumatic brain injuries. Too many people have suffered and more will continue to suffer if we do not continue to build on this moment.

Sport-related concussions are serious, but rules and protocols aimed at making athletes safer draw the ire from athletes, coaches, parents, and fans alike. We can do better.

There has never been more money and resources directed at assessing and managing concussion, yet the evidence of how much further we need to go was streamed to every screen tuned in last night. We can do better.

Unfortunately, sport comes with inherent injury risk; and we do not wish to use the moment to dismiss all the important progress made in sport safety and sport medicine. However, Tua’s week highlights how much more road is left to travel. We can do better, together.

Please support and advocate for programs work to make sports be as safe as possible.

Anja Kuys is a Graduate Student studying Exercise Science at the University of Montevallo. Anja is also a Midfielder on the Women’s Lacrosse Team, has led the team in scoring multiple years, was recognized as an All-Conference player and achieved Academic Honor Roll in the Gulf South Conference, and represented her home country of New Zealand in the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship.

Isabelle Fuell is a Senior majoring in Exercise and Nutrition Science from Huntsville, AL. Isabelle is a member of the Women’s Volleyball Team, was named to the Gulf South Conference’s Academic Honor Roll in 2020 and 2021, awarded the University of Montevallo Athletic Department’s inaugural Iron Falcon Award, as a Junior.

Robert L. Herron, Ed.D., NSCA-CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP is an Assistant Professor in the Exercise and Nutrition Science Program at the University of Montevallo. Dr. Herron is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). Dr. Herron is a graduate of the United States Sports Academy and serves as a Non-Resident Faculty Member.

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