OUR VIEW: Continuing to make football safer

Published 10:30 am Saturday, October 1, 2022

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It was a rare Thursday night for us, as all of our local high school football teams were in action, creating a quiet Friday night as far as football games are concerned.

Imagine that in the fall — a quiet Friday night.

While many of us were at high school games Thursday night, the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins shared the national stage. And that football game quickly became a national story when Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down with what appeared to be a major head injury. Tagovailoa was thrown to the field on a sack, and if you haven’t seen the replay, it’s hard to describe well what happened next. 

He appeared completely out of it and his fingers and hands were in a distorted, frozen shape. He was stretchered off the field and thankfully released from a Cincinnati hospital on Thursday night. The injury itself would always lead to a lot of discussion, but the fact that Tagovailoa was injured in a game on Sunday and appeared to stumble around after standing back up, fed more into that discussion. Tagovailoa was cleared to return in that game, with the Dolphins noting he had a back injury. Then, he was cleared to play Thursday.

Many are accusing those involved in prioritizing football over a person’s health, and the NFL Player’s Association is investigating. 

Our initial thought was that no matter how much we love football — and we have some major fans in our office — that changes need to continue to be made. Coaches now are told to keep heads out of the game of football. You don’t tackle with your head or lead with your head. Helmets, particularly at the college and professional level, are getting safer. Those are good things.

But every night on youth, middle and high school sidelines, we have to rely on coaches being able to quickly determine how injured a player is. In many cases, a professional medical staff member is not there. We know we have amazing coaches here in Troup County, and we know they have the care of their student athletes in mind. No doubt about it. But players always want to play. They always want to get back in the game.

And it’s scary to think that an undiagnosed concussion could quickly lead to another hit — one like Tua took — and could lead to a much more significant injury. After all, no one players football forever, but those players are sons, fathers, uncles and friends forever, and football — even as much as we love it — is just a game.We hope all of the conversations around Tagovailoa’s injury lead to more discussion about making football safer nationwide — not just at the NFL level but on our sidelines in Troup County too.