Master black belt says jiu-jitsu can ‘100 percent’ save Tua Tagovailoa’s career

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Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

In the opinion of a jiu-jitsu expert, a premature end to Tua Tagovailoa’s NFL career could be avoided through his embrace of martial arts.

Zac Keefer of The Athletic looked at Tagovailoa’s efforts to avoid further concussions, with master black belt Ricardo Liborio indicating that the Miami Dolphins quarterback’s offseason jiu-jitsu could offer long-term value.

“In my opinion, 100 percent, this can save his career,” Liborio said.

Liborio has had a lengthy career of teaching jiu-jitsu to athletes, including some NFL players. That experience offers some strong credibility to his statement about Tagovailoa.

In June, it was reported that Tagovailoa was the “strongest he’s ever been” amid his offseason training.

The Dolphins’ training staff had previously pointed to jiu-jitsu as a way to deal with the constant hits that Tagovailoa inevitably deals with during the course of a season. In Tagovailoa’s case, learning to safely fall is one possible way to deal with the multiple concussions he suffered last season.

All of the Dolphins quarterbacks were provided the information by the team’s training staff, with Skylar Thompson sharing Tagovailoa’s lack of knowledge about the value of such drills.

One reason why jiu-jitsu is seen as a potential asset for Tagovailoa and the other signal-callers is that learning to safely fall is a key part of the drills. One of the key aspects of those drills is meant to avoid having players’ heads quickly whip backward after getting hit.

Tagovailoa’s 2022 season was interrupted multiple times because of concussions. In the first meeting between the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, Tagovailoa fell after quickly getting up following a hit. He wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion, however.

After temporarily leaving that Bills game, Tagovailoa returned to the contest. Just four days later, Tagovailoa took another hard hit and was carted off the field.

As a result, Tagovailoa would sit out the next two games before making his return. Unfortunately, in a Christmas Day loss to the Green Bay Packers, Tagovailoa sustained what ended up being a season-ending concussion.

Of course, despite Tagovailoa’s enthusiasm about jiu-jitsu, there’s no guarantee that he’ll avoid any further concussions. However, he’s been given important tools on how to make sure he has a long career in the league.

The first real test will be next month, when the 2023 regular season gets underway for the Dolphins with a road game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 10.

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Brad is a freelance writer for and has been around long enough to remember the 1972 perfect season, and even when Don Shula was coaching the Colts. He still follows the Dolphins and other happenings in the NFL, so he can offer a little perspective when it comes to the ups and downs of each season. Some of his opinions may end up differing from the people who read them, but that's par for the course when it comes to life in South Florida.