Concussion expert Chris Nowinski: Tua Tagovailoa isn't ‘concussion-prone,' need not retire

Boynton Beach’s Chris Nowinski, a pioneer in research on traumatic brain injury and an expert on concussions, believes that Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is not “concussion-prone” and should not have to retire.

Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit that has studied the brains of numerous deceased NFL players for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), warns of the dangers of suffering multiple concussions in a short amount of time but stops short of calling for Tagovailoa to step away from the game permanently.

“It’s not fair to Tua to label him as concussion-prone, and he does not have to retire,” Nowinski — who has not examined Tagovailoa — writes in a blog on the CLF site. “A cluster of concussions, or even long-term symptoms, does not prevent a successful return or long career. Remember a decade ago when people were predicting Sidney Crosby would need to retire after fighting concussions? He’s still playing.”

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Nowinski is a former Harvard football player whose career in World Wrestling Entertainment was cut short because of multiple concussions. He then dedicated his attention toward researching brain injuries.

Tagovailoa suffered a concussion Sept. 29 against the Cincinnati Bengals and another last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Nowinski argues that Tagovailoa also suffered an undiagnosed concussion Sept. 25 against the Buffalo Bills, when he staggered and needed assistance regaining his feet.

Because of this, Nowinski believes the Dolphins should shut down Tagovailoa for the season.

“What Tua may not know is that the concussion protocol is imperfect and is not the only variable to consider when deciding whether to return this season,” Nowinski writes. “Clinical experience (and my personal experience) suggests that the more concussions one has, and the closer together they are, the longer they take to recover from, and the more likely symptoms are to become permanent. Tua would be further risking his career to return this season, but a doctor may not be willing to tell him that.”

In the past, Nowinski has been critical of both the NFL and the Dolphins for their track record on dealing with brain injuries, although an investigation cleared the Dolphins of wrongdoing during the controversial Sept. 25 incident. Nowinski does not find fault with the team’s handling of Tagovailoa this past weekend because Tagovailoa didn’t show outward signs he’d suffered a concussion. Nowinski argues it’s unrealistic to expect even tougher protocols to intervene in such a case “unless we want everyone to come out of the game when their head hits the ground.”

It was only on Monday morning that Tagovailoa did not feel right, was examined and placed in concussion protocol. Nowinski writes that it’s not unusual for concussion symptoms to be delayed by a day or two.

“No one is being watched more closely for concussions right now than Tua,” Nowinski writes. “Yet everyone missed it — the NFL spotters, the team medical staff, the coaches, the announcers, and the players on the field. If we can’t spot Tua’s concussion, what are the chances we do a good job spotting the concussions of youth athletes, who don’t have the benefit of 30 medical professionals at each game, multiple camera angles and replays, coaches and teammates who know what concussions look like, and the experience of having had prior concussions?

“That’s why we launched our Stop Hitting Kids in the Head Campaign, which encourages parents to choose non-contact sports for their kids before high school. For children, our primary focus should be concussion prevention.”

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tua Tagovailoa not ‘concussion-prone,' expert says, should not retire