The Tua Tagovailoa situation has renewed the focus on concussion in football, including most important how they are spotted (or not) and how they are properly handled (or not).
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, in an interview with Colin Cowherd, admitted that, on multiple occasions, Burrow has forgotten the second half of a game or the entire game.
Burrow didn’t get more specific as to when that happened, or at which level of football. Regardless, he understands that the potential for a head injury is part of the game.
“You can make all the rules you want to make the game as safe as you possibly can, but there’s an inherent risk and danger with the game of football,” Burrow said. “You have 300-pound men running 20 miles an hour trying to take your head off while you’re standing still trying to ignore it, and find receivers that are open. And then sometimes you’ve got to go run and try to get a first down. You run 20 miles an hour and somebody else is running 22 miles an hour, you’ve got to try to get the first down.
“That’s part of the game, I think. Part of what we signed up for. You’re gonna have head injuries, you’re gonna tear your ACL, you’re gonna break your arm. That’s the game that we play. That’s the life that we live. And we get paid handsomely for it.”
It’s no surprise that players have no issue with the possibility of suffering head trauma. The league fully and freely allowed them to accept that risk — even if already potentially concussed — until Congress made the issue a priority 13 years ago this month. Then it became, within a year or two thereafter, a major liability issue for the league. It also became an existential threat to the game, given that parents became concerned about letting their kids play at lower levels of the sport.
That’s why the league has these protocols. Even if plenty of players would gladly play despite a head injury that has not fully resolved, the league has no choice but to care about the issue more than the players do. If the league doesn’t, Congress could actively regulate the sport. More importantly, the supply of future players could diminish.
That’s the biggest practical impact of the troubling images resulting from the two occasions in the past two weeks in which Tua’s head has struck the ground. It’s also why (I believe) the league and the union swept the obvious failure of the protocol regarding Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate under the rug.
If the NFL can’t properly spot and evaluate potential head trauma as it’s happening, what hope does the local high school have at doing the same thing? That’s why the league would prefer that we quickly get back to the point where head trauma isn’t being discussed, and the league’s mishandling of it isn’t being scrutinized.