In the wake of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injuries, George Kittle thinks the NFL will likely strengthen protocols with regards to head trauma.
During Week 4’s Thursday Night Football contest between the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, NFL fans witnessed one of the scarier moments this season when Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was slammed to the ground and ended up suffering what looked like a serious head injury, ultimately requiring him to be carried off the field on a stretcher.
Tagovailoa was then sent off to a hospital for further evaluation and monitoring. However, given the serious nature of the injury, he’ll nevertheless be placed in the concussion protocol.
The quarterback was subsequently released from the hospital after tests showed no structural damage, according to ESPN, and he was able to return with the team back to Miami afterward.
However, in light of Tagovailoa suffering what appeared to be another head injury the week before against the Buffalo Bills, questions surrounding just how easy it is for players with possible head injuries to return to action are going to dominate the conversation.
Late this week, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle weighed in on the conversation.
George Kittle says teams have to take responsibility for their players
As reported by NBC Sports Bay Area’s Taylor Wirth, Kittle explained why it’s understandable players want to stay on the field as much as possible despite suffering injuries:
"As an NFL player, it’s very hard to take yourself off the field especially when you’re in a position he’s in. He’s the starting quarterback of the Dolphins, they’re 3-0, he’s playing at a very high level, they’re winning very big games. So I know whatever anybody’s telling him he’s going to do his best to be out there."
Kittle, who also has a pretty length injury history that also includes missing the first two games of the 2022 season because of a groin injury, admitted he hasn’t suffered a concussion during his NFL career but has gone through the testing protocols that help determine whether or not a player is suffering from this sort of setback.
“I’ve been checked a couple times and fortunately, I haven’t had a concussion so I’ve gotten through those,” Kittle added. “But they were very serious with that stuff, so I think they’ve done a good job.”
At the same time, though, Kittle acknowledged that teams should bear the responsibility for looking out for their players, especially considering players are so competitive to the point where they want to play despite serious injuries.
“At the end of the day, sometimes the team has to kind of protect you from yourself,” Kittle said.
George Kittle thinks the NFL will heighten concussion protocols more
The NFL is going to be under increased scrutiny for Tagovailoa’s apparent head injury and how it was handled, both in Week 3 and again in Week 4.
Currently, not only will a team monitor the health of a player suffering an apparent head injury, but also an independent neurologist who works for the league and not the team itself. That individual can call for the player not only to be removed from games but also require the player to be placed in the NFL’s protocol for concussions.
That player also has to be cleared by an independent neurologist to be removed from the concussion protocol.
Although it’s interesting to note the NFL Players Association ended up terminating the independent neurologist who was responsible for Tagovailoa’s monitoring during that Week 4 game:
While Kittle stated the NFL has “done a good job” with regards to increased protection against head injuries and further trauma, he also admitted that scrutiny is likely going to get a lot tighter:
"I’m not saying the Dolphins did anything wrong, but Tua could have passed all these tests and maybe his concussion last week wasn’t so bad. I don’t know the details, but with all the scrutiny that’s on it right now, I’m going to assume that things are going to get even tighter moving forward."
The NFL has long been under pressure to better handle not only general injuries but also concussions, both preventing them and in the wake of ones that have happened.
Tagovailoa’s recent injury scares are only going to highlight the need to pay closer attention.