Everything to know about Tua Tagovailoa’s injury, full timeline [UPDATED]

Tua Tagovailoa (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Tua Tagovailoa (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Tua Tagovailoa suffered a scary head and neck injury on Thursday night that is being connected to an injury he suffered in the previous game.

Before Thursday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, fans and experts had questions about why Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was allowed to play.

Tagovailoa exited Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills and was checked for a concussion. According to the Dolphins, he passed concussion protocol and returned to the game.

Unfortunately, Tagovailoa suffered another injury on Thursday night that looked even scarier than the one in Week 3.

There’s a lot of buildup here and will be fallout to come. Here is everything you need to know about the Tagovailoa injury going back to last week’s game.

THIS POST WAS LAST UPDATED AT 2:32 PM ET on Saturday, October 1. 

Sunday: Tua Tagovailoa suffers injury against Buffalo Bills but returns to game

On Sunday, Tua Tagovailoa suffered an injury against the Buffalo Bills. After hitting the ground (the back of his head hit the ground as well), Tagovailoa stood up and attempted to walk back to the line of scrimmage for the next play. He stumbled, which was perceived as a concussion symptom (possible dizziness, instability), and needed to be stabilized by a teammate to stand upright.

Tagovailoa was immediately removed from the game. He told reporters the reason for the stumbling was that his back locked up.

Tagovailoa cleared concussion protocol that day and returned to the game.

What does that entail?

To enter concussion protocol, a third-party neurotrauma consultant or an athletic trainer needs to identify a possible concussion to recommend a sideline exam. Ostensibly, Tagovailoa’s injury on Sunday qualified.

The concussion protocol requires both the third-party consultant and the team physician to approve the return to play after a survey and consideration of the player’s personal medical history.

Sunday: NFLPA launches an investigation into concussion protocol, Dolphins

The NFL Players Union launched an investigation into the Dolphins and whether or not the team followed the prescribed concussion protocol.

In light of the injury on Thursday night, the union’s Twitter account reminded the public that their investigation is ongoing:

Thursday before game: Tua Tagovailoa activated for Thursday Night Football vs Bengals

Shortly before kickoff, Tagovailoa was officially activated as the starting quarterback for the Dolphins.

Thursday, 2nd quarter: Tua Tagovailoa suffers scary injury, carted off field on Thursday

On Thursday night, Bengals defender Josh Tupou skirted around his lineman and reached Tua. He came in at an oblique angle and had to wrap his arms around Tagovailoa’s waist to make the tackle, whipping him down with force which caused hard back, neck, and possibly head impact with the ground.

Cameras showed Tagovailoa in pain and his fingers/hands in an abnormal, contorted position, which is apparently a, “neurological response to head trauma.”.

Tagovailoa was carted off the field in Cincinnati.

Thursday night: Tua Tagovailoa heads to hospital

After being carted off the field, Tagovailoa was taken to a Level-1 trauma center in an ambulance.

University of Cincinnati Medical Center is the area’s only L1 trauma center.

Thursday night: Tua Tagovailoa returns to Bengals stadium in neck brace

Tagovailoa returned to Paycor Stadium before the Dolphins exited. He was seen outside the locker room in a neck brace.

Tagovailoa suffered no broken bones according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, and the initial tests were encouraging given the circumstances. Tagovailoa was diagnosed with a concussion and will have further MRIs this week.

Thursday: Tua Tagovailoa is in return-to-play concussion protocol, which is more extensive than game day protocol

Now that Tagovailoa has been officially diagnosed with a concussion, he enters a different version of the NFL’s concussion protocol. There are essentially two paths in concussion protocol: Game day checklist and return-to-participation. The full policy can be read on the NFL’s website.

Game day checklist (the checklist Tagovailoa passed on Sunday):

  • Call-out from a “spotter” (either Dolphins or opposing team physicians or third-party neurological consultants on-site) indicating player should be assessed for concussion.
  • Player removed from game to medical tent.
  • Sideline survey conducted involving review by team physician and third-party consultant.
  • From the NFL: “If any element of Sideline Medical Survey is positive, inconclusive, or suspicious of concussion, then the player is escorted to the locker room for further evaluation.”

Return-to-participation (protocol Tagovailoa now enters):

There are five steps in the return-to-participation protocol:

  1. Symptom-limited activity
  2. Aerobic exercise
  3. Football-specific exercise
  4. Club-based non-contact training drills
  5. Full football activity/clearance

According to the NFL, “Each player and each concussion is unique, and there is no set time-frame for return to participation. Team medical staff consider the player’s current concussive injury, as well as past exposures and medical history, family history and future risk in managing a player’s care.”

Thursday, postgame: Mike McDaniel defends himself, team regarding Tagovailoa injury

Mike McDaniel spoke to Jackson of the Miami Herald and other reporters and indicated he was worried about a potential spinal injury:

"“What I was worried about was other things on top of that,” McDaniel said. “Obviously I was very worried about his head. But you want to make sure that all things with relation to the spine and back and all that stuff, you want to make sure that’s OK.”"

McDaniel said he would never put a player in a position to be in harm’s way. He defended the team’s assessment that no head trauma injury was of concern on Sunday or leading up to Thursday:

More from McDaniel:

Thursday night: Tua Tagovailoa flies home to Miami with Dolphins

Following his discharge from the Level-1 trauma center in Cincinnati and concussion diagnoses, Tua Tagovailoa was cleared by a local third party doctor and the team physician to travel with the Dolphins by plane back to Miami.

As of Friday, he is back home in Miami.

Friday morning: Mike McDaniel speaks to the media

Mike McDaniel spoke to the media on Friday and restated his adamance that the team did everything they could to assess his health going into Thursday night’s game. He said he had full conviction that the team properly went through the protocols, and anecdotal signs (such as Tua reciting a 14-word play call from memory in between Sunday and Thursday) instilled confidence in the fact that there was no concern of a head injury.

He also got extremely emotional talking about the moment when he left on a stretcher.

McDaniel emphasized that there is currently no timeline for Tagovailoa’s recovery, which is normal for any player in concussion protocol since the recovery is determined by factors unique to the individual player.

Saturday afternoon: Doctor who cleared Tua Tagovailoa fired

On Saturday afternoon, the unaffiliated doctor who cleared Tagovailoa was fired, per Adam Schefter and Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that the doctor made “several mistakes” in their evaluation of Tagovailoa. This came after the NFLPA exercised its right to investigate the incident. Tagovailoa has been diagnosed with a concussion and there is no timetable for his return.

Next. Tyreek Hill reveals how worried Dolphins were about Tua. dark