Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was stretchered off after suffering head and neck injuries against the Cincinnati Bengals
A neurologist has condemned NFL franchise the Miami Dolphins for allegedly putting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's health at risk by rushing him back to action after he suffered a second brutal hit in five days.
Tagovailoa was stretchered off the field at Paycor Stadium and taken to hospital to treat head and neck injuries following a second-quarter sack in an eventual 27-15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday.
Replays showed Tagovailoa's head hit the ground when he was chased down and tackled by the Bengals' Josh Tupou.
With his hands seized up, the 24-year-old remained on the field for more than seven minutes before being taken off to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where the Dolphins said he was conscious and had movement in his extremities.
Tagovailoa was expected to be released on Thursday night and fly back to Miami with his teammates.
But after the quarterback was suspected to have suffered a concussion on Sunday in a thrilling win over the Buffalo Bills, the entire Dolphins organization was accused of incompetence by Chris Nowinski Ph.D for supposedly rushing Tagovailoa back to action.
"This is a disaster. Pray for Tua," Nowinski said when sharing footage of the incident.
"Fire the medical staff and coaches. I predicted this and I hate that I am right. Two concussions in five days can kill someone. This can end careers. How are we so stupid in 2022," he added.
"If he dies from second-impact syndrome, I'm pushing for murder charges."
Tagovailoa underwent concussion tests at halftime in the 21-19 win over the Bills after hitting his head on the ground.
The youngster stumbled while trying to return to the huddle, and was initially listed as questionable to return due to a head injury before the Dolphins said it was a back injury that caused the stumble.
Later this week, Tagovailoa said that he passed every evaluation before ultimately returning to the game, but the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) requested a review into the league's concussion protocols following his swift comeback.
"Player health and safety is at the core of the union's mission. Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing," said the NFLPA in a statement after Tagovailoa was injured on Thursday.
Asked if he was 100% sure that Tagovailoa wasn't concussed after Sunday's meeting with the Bills, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said yes and claimed that Tagovailoa had been cleared by an independent neurologist.
Before the Bengals game, Chris Nowinski warned that "if Tua takes the field tonight, it's a massive step back for #concussion care in the NFL."
"People don't stray. We don't mess with that. As long as I'm the head coach, that will never be an issue," said McDaniel.
"[I have] absolutely zero patience for [and will never] put a player in position for them to be in harm's way. That's not what I'm about at all. No outcome of a game would influence me to be irresponsible as a head coach of a football team," McDaniel added.
"I could tell it wasn't the same guy that I was used to seeing," McDaniel said of the moments in which Tagovailoa was grounded and called out for him.
"It was a scary moment. He was evaluated for a concussion. He's in the concussion protocol, but he's being discharged.
"It's an emotional moment. It's not a part of the deal you sign up for. His teammates and myself were very concerned, but he got checked out and it's nothing more serious than a concussion."
It is unknown how long Tagovailoa will be out for, but the 3-1 Dolphins now have nine days' rest before facing divisional rivals the New York Jets on the road in the AFC East on October 9.