Going forward, arguably the biggest concern regarding Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has to do with his health.
The young star suffered two confirmed concussions during the 2022 NFL season, and there has already been lots of discussion around how best to keep him safe and healthy going forward. Though some believe that Tagovailoa should have already put an end to his NFL career, that is clearly not going to happen at this point in time.
For that reason, the best thing that Tagovailoa, the Dolphins and NFL as a whole can do is find ways to protect him — and all other football players — as best as possible.
Some good news on that front is that it looks like the NFL and NFLPA have approved the use of a helmet that will reduce the impact of hits like the one that Tagovailoa experienced in Week 4 versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
“The first quarterback-specific helmet designed to help reduce concussions has been approved for use by the NFL and NFLPA, the AP has learned,” Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press reported.
“The helmet, manufactured by Vicis, reduces severity of helmet-to-ground impacts, which league data says account for approximately half of quarterback concussions, including the one suffered by Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa last season when his head slammed violently against the turf during a Thursday night game against Cincinnati.”
While football fans are perhaps most used to seeing concussions occur as a result of head-to-head collisions, another very common way in which head injuries occur is when a player’s head hits the ground.
That’s what happened to Tagovailoa versus the Bengals. He was wrapped up by an opposing defender, and the momentums of their bodies resulted in Tagovailoa’s head being slammed against the ground violently.
It was a terrifying scene, and the young passer had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.
The new helmet is geared specifically toward those helmet-to-ground collisions.
“We’ve now analyzed with our engineers and with the Players Association more than a 1,000 concussions on field, we have a pretty good database of how these injuries occur,” NFL executive Jeff Miller told the Associated Press about the helmet-to-ground impacts. “This helmet performs better in laboratory testing than any helmets we have ever seen for those sorts of impacts.”
According to the report, this new helmet performed seven percent better than the most popular helmet worn by quarterbacks last season. Though that margin may not seem like a lot, there is no doubt that the league and its players will do anything they can to reduce the risk of concussions.
Beyond that, further testing has led to an overall advancement of knowledge regarding concussions. According to the report, seven helmets the league highly recommended for use in 2020 have now been downgraded to prohibited.
“That’s a great sign,” Miller said. “Hopefully we can continue to stimulate that either with position-specific helmets designed for each position group or for a general all-purpose helmet to be able to say to players: ‘Work with us, be willing to change helmets because better and better products are coming online every year.’”
While it’s good to see that advancements are being made, it is a bit disturbing to learn just how little was known even a few years ago when concussions were still very much a concern.
Either way, there’s little doubt that studies will continue as scientists, engineers and the NFL look to make head injuries a much smaller part of the game.
That’s good news for Tagovailoa and every football player out there.