ProFootballDoc: Let’s Hope Tua Head Injury Is Not Second Impact Syndrome

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was stretchered off on Thursday night in Cincinnati. He was announced with head and neck injuries and taken to a local level one trauma center.

The good news is he was already announced to be moving all extremities. By video, there does not appear to be a significant neck injury but precaution is always a good thing.

The worry is for head injury. Tua clearly appeared to have a “fencing” type response which can be called decorticate posturing. The happens temporarily when the electrical impulses in the brain go momentarily haywire and sends lots of extraneous signals.

Tua injured
CINCINNATI, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 29: 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. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Fortunately this is usually a temporary condition and Tua should return to normal neurologic function. Unfortunately this seems to be a clear concussion and of course there are long term CTE worries.

The biggest worry is if it is determined in retrospect that Tua suffered a concusion last Sunday, a second hit can lead to head injury easier and have more lasting consequences. There has been no indication that this is the case but the NFLPA is investigating the explanation of back spasm versus the Bills. By video, many including myself initially felt a head injury happened but indeed Tua was cleared by an independent neuro to return on Sunday.

One can never judge the severity of concussion by video or even the initial symptoms as scary as this looks on a national broadcast. The hope is that Tua will be cleared and discharged from the hospital to fly home with the team. Let’s see that happen before discussing when he can play football again.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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