September 29th 2022, The Miami Dolphins travel to Cincinnati to face off against the Bengals. Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback of the Dolphins, is heading into the game not at 100% as he’s coming off a clear concussion from four days ago that was said to be a back injury. Everyone who saw him after the past play knew that it was a concussion. Going into the game against the Bengals many doctors warned him not to play, saying that if he got hit again it was extremely dangerous towards his overall health. Yet, he was cleared to play and the game started off smoothly. Nothing seemed wrong, the Dolphins were in a close game, but with 6 minutes left in the 2nd quarter Tua would get crushed by a Bengals pass rusher for a sack and his head hit hard into the ground. Instantly after hitting the ground, Tua would put his hands into a “Fencing Response” position. This is caused by one arm being flexed, the other arm extended, and the head turned towards the extended arm. It’s believed that the fencing response is triggered in brain injuries that result in soft brain tissue hitting the skull’s hard bone. This reaction was extremely scary to watch and instantly alarmed everyone into a full outrage. As Tua got carted off the field and sent to the emergency room, people began to bring up what had just happened to him four days ago with him receiving a concussion and everyone had questions. “Why was he paying?” “How did the doctors clear him?” and many more. This incident would lead us into the bigger problem of how this happens and what can be done to stop this.
Since 2015, the NFL has seen a drop in concussions which is a positive sign, but the number of concussions per year is still much higher than what it should be. In 2015 the NFL had a reported 275 concussions. Six years later in 2021, the NFL had a reported 187 concussions. This drop in concussion is a massive positive for the NFL, but improvement still needs to be made for better safety of players at all levels of the game. Recently the NFL has implemented a new helmet for the games that have extra padding to reduce the impact of helmet to helmet hits. Along with this a big change that has been made at all levels of football has been the practice helmets that have been put in place. They are called Guardian caps and look like big squishy padding on top of the helmets. These have been put in place to still be able to practice at full speed and massively reduce the risk of concussions, as well as hard head to head hits.
“It’s been really nice having these new helmets to practice with,” said junior linebacker for the Royals, Ryan McLain. “It has allowed us to practice a lot harder without having to worry as much. I think there is great improvement for sports safety.”
A concussion is often overlooked compared to some of the other injuries that are sustained during the NFL season. However, concussions may truly be one of the worst injuries. A prime example of someone’s life and career being derailed by head injuries is Antonio Brown. He was one of the best wide receivers in the game before a massive concussion against the bengals ruined him. After the concussion, he was never the same. He has been arrested, dropped off of many teams, banned from the league, and more awful things. All of the things he does show signs of CTE: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is one of the worst things that can happen to the brain as it causes many problems. CTE can cause things such as depression, suicidal behavior, aggression, decline of memory, and more. All of these are huge issues that need to be focused on and talked about more than they are.
If football can incorporate a rule that can help players be safer when they have a concussion, or show signs of a concussion, then it could be a huge step in the right direction for football. Overall it is important to make the game safer for these men of all ages to protect their brain, and live long and healthy lives.