Lessons to Be Learned From Tua Tagovailoa’s Repeat Concussions
September 30, 2022
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been hospitalized after sustaining repeat concussions – two brain injuries in less than one week. The National Football League (NFL) player was first injured in a game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Tagovailoa was knocked down, but walked off the field shortly thereafter and continued to play after spending time on the sidelines. Just days later, he was hit again while playing against the Cincinnati Bengals. He fell to the ground and was carried off the field on a stretcher.
Concussions, also called minor traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs), resultant from sports have become a major topic of discussion in recent years. This is in part because they often happen live on television, as was the case for Tagovailoa. Although sports are an important and serious cause of concussion, they are not as common as they may seem – falls account for nearly half of all TBI-related hospitalizations. Motor vehicle crashes and assaults are the second and third most common causes of TBI.
Anyone can sustain a concussion – from professional athletes to weekend warriors to elementary school students. This injury is not limited to certain individuals or circumstances. Sustaining one concussion can be dangerous; sustaining multiple even moreso. It’s essential to get checked if you suspect that you may have injured yourself and not resume activities that may put you at risk.
How to Determine if You May Have a Concussion
A concussion occurs when you bump or jolt to your head or hit your body in a way that causes your brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause your brain to move within your skull, damaging brain cells and creating chemical changes. This can include domestic violence, combat, sports, falls, whiplash, or workplace injury.
Since you generally can’t see the injury itself, you may not realize that you’ve injured yourself. Sometimes the best way to know that you should take action is to assess any symptoms you are having. Common symptoms of concussion are:
- Immediate loss of consciousness at the time of injury – Note that this is not necessary for an injury to be a concussion
- Changes in vision
- Mental fog
- Slurred speech
- Nausea or vomiting
- And more
Note that symptoms may not appear immediately after injury and that the expression of concussion is different for everyone.
The Impact of Repeat Concussions
Although many people feel back to their normal selves within two or three weeks of sustaining a concussion, lifelong symptoms persist for others. This is particularly true for those who sustain more than one injury in a short period of time. Assessment, treatment, and avoiding secondary injury can prevent long-lasting consequences.
Post-concussive syndrome (PCS) is diagnosed in approximately 15% of individuals. This syndrome indicates that the side effects of concussion have persisted beyond the expected recovery time window. Individuals who sustain multiple concussions are at higher risk of PCS. They are also more likely to experience chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease that is linked to specific changes in the brain that we are learning more about each day.
Long-term impacts of concussion are increased by repeat injury. The following health outcomes are associated with concussion:
- Neurological disorders: Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, dementia
- Cognitive impairment
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic fatigue
- Endocrine disorders
- And more
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) wishes Tua Tagovailoa a speedy and full recovery from the repeat concussions that he sustained and hopes that his example serves to promote best practices for all those who are injured in the future, both on and off the field.
About the Brain Injury Association of America
The Brain Injury Association of America is the country’s oldest and largest nationwide brain injury advocacy organization. Our mission is to advance awareness, research, treatment, and education and to improve the quality of life for all people affected by brain injury. We are dedicated to increasing access to quality health care and raising awareness and understanding of brain injury.