The last time Las Vegas Raiders fans saw Hunter Renfrow was when he fumbled in overtime against the Arizona Cardinals. If you recall, that led directly to a Raiders loss that day. Renfrow suffered a concussion on the play, so the fumble was no real shock. The surprise is that the Raiders haven’t cleared him for practice since then, and it’s been almost two weeks since then.
Las Vegas has been taking the right approach with their concussed players.
The Raiders seem to be one of the only teams taking concussions seriously. For example, center Andre James has been out since Week 1’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers (he’s since returned to practice this week). You also have star corner Nate Hobbs, who sustained a concussion against the Tennessee Titans. He had been limited in practice till yesterday, Friday. Do these things hurt the team’s performance? Of course, they do, but the alternative can be horrifying, as we saw on Thursday Night Football.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustained a hit in the first half that didn’t look terrible, but when he fell, the back of his head slammed against the ground. His arms bent in an L-shape at the elbow and his fingers splayed in a manner consistent with neurological damage. Anyone with a trained eye knew immediately that this was a concussion, as these are classic signs that have been seen all too often recently.
NFL Concussions: Tua’s Circumstances Were Unique
A player suffering a concussion is not unusual at all. Nevertheless, Tua’s circumstances were unique. He had suffered an injury just four days earlier during a game against the Buffalo Bills wherein he collapsed on the field. The Dolphins explained this as his back locking up. Still, it sure looked like a head injury to me and to many others watching that game. The NFLPA was also not convinced and asked that the league’s rules about concussions be carefully looked over.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Dr. Chris Nowinski posted this Tweet:
If Tua takes the field tonight, it's a massive step back for #concussion care in the NFL.
If he has a 2nd concussion that destroys his season or career, everyone involved will be sued & should lose their jobs, coaches included. We all saw it, even they must know this isn't right https://t.co/vxpaOif5rh
— Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. (@ChrisNowinski1) September 29, 2022
Nowinski, sadly enough, saw exactly what could happen and called it out. Nowinski went to Harvard and was forced to retire from a WWE career due to concussions and has since become one of the country’s foremost voices and experts on concussions. He knows what he’s talking about. Meanwhile, NFL Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said Tagovailoa was checked for concussion symptoms each day and was cleared for the game.
I’m not sure how any decent medical staff can clear a guy who, last we saw him, was walking like a newborn deer on a sheet of ice. However, I’m sure Dr. Sills and the rest of his colleagues from Hollywood Upstairs Medical College will tell us when they write a book about it. Surely the league wouldn’t push for a star quarterback to be cleared to play just so the league could promote a big important game on their new streaming platform, Amazon Prime. Surely the NFL wouldn’t put money over the health and safety of its players. More importantly, I’m sure the players’ union wouldn’t allow that.
Did Tua suffer long-term damage?
It used to be that a coach would play you if you were merely hurt but not injured. The dividing line was whether a bone was sticking out of your skin. A concussion is an insidious thing, because the damage is on the inside, and it’s not readily apparent unless you go looking for it. One concussion isn’t usually enough to do lasting damage. Regrettably, more than one in a short period of time can be fatal. Tagovailoa, thankfully, did not sustain any injuries more serious than a concussion on Thursday. Then he was sent home from the hospital, but reports say he has had a headache ever since.
Let’s not forget that any concussion, no matter how severe, is a traumatic brain injury. Just as important is the fact that each person’s brain is slightly different. What one man can shrug off may be a career-ending injury for someone else. One guy might be out for a week, while another may be sensitive to light or sound for the rest of his life. Sometimes you have no long-term problems. Sometimes you get Ken Stabler, Junior Seau, Aaron Hernandez, or even someone Nowinski worked with, Chris Benoit. All these men suffered massive brain damage over the course of many years. We all know how their stories end.
The Raiders have gotten one thing right so far in 2022
It may be that Tua himself convinced the Dolphins and the independent medical specialists that he could play. Surely, he knows how long Dolphins fans have waited for a winning team they can be optimistic about. Even now, the Dolphins’ brass are defending their decision to play him. We can only hope he doesn’t have any serious long-term quality of life problems stemming from this week’s events. For all that has gone wrong for the Raiders this season, at least they are getting this one right and giving their players the time they need to recover from their own head trauma.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports