I figured it was only a matter of time until the NFL’s method of determining concussions on the field would come under scrutiny and this past week was a breaking point.

On Week 3’s game against the Bills, Tua took a hit and upon getting up and walking, he stumbled suddenly and shook his head about. The moment was noticed by plenty of concerned fans who got worried he was concussed. Tua stayed in the game however and it was reported to be “a back injury” that caused him to briefly lock up and stumble. I do not know the validity of that diagnosis. I am not a doctor. I have never had a concussion or hurt my back in such a way. Maybe all of those things were actually plausible and true. What I do know is after years of concussions being a major issue within the football world, many of us have now been slightly trained in recognizing signs of potential concussions, and Tua was sending up a lot of red flags.

But it wouldn’t be the first time someone exhibiting signs passed concussion protocol, stayed in the game, and we all forgot about it. Concussions happen on a wide spectrum of severity and manifest symptoms to different degrees, and Tua’s did seem somewhat mild. Players stumble after rough hits for lots of reasons. Why this ended up being such a problem was that 4 days later Tua had to play football again, took a massive, whipping sack, and had what everyone could tell was a terrifying major concussion. This means that if Tua had been properly diagnosed in the first place (again, maybe he actually was, we don’t know for sure), he wouldn’t have been playing on Thursday night, and the injury wouldn’t have happened and possibly compounded an already concussed player on a short week.

The Dolphins independent doctor was already fired. This feels like the result of two options: the independently contracted doctor really did fuck it up, or the doctor was the fall guy for this PR nightmare. Neither reflects very well on the NFL or the Dolphins. I’m not sure if the Dolphins or NFL hired him, but I think it’s fair to look at the situation and be skeptical of the entire process. Hiring an independent brain doc for each game was honestly a good move on the part of the league during the concussion crisis and I think has probably done more good than harm overall, but they are still being employed by the league, a league which has the monetary motivation to keep star players on the field. How much independence these doctors have is anyone’s guess. They also make for an easy fall guy situation. Maybe the independent doctor indeed deserved to be fired, but the Dolphins medical team also should have figured something out at the very least in the post-game.

Honestly, it actually looks to me like the Dolphins and everyone more or less followed protocol. The problem feels more systemic, and the protocol itself might be in need of an update. I saw some news floating around that any player who visibly suffers from motor disability be taken out of a game permanently, which is probably a good angle to start with. More scrutiny should probably be added to evaluations. It appears the NFL is indeed moving forward on changes. We’re all mad about this because it shouldn’t have happened, but if this advances the protocol and helps tighten up players’ safety I can’t be too mad about it. If the league is going to keep doing these stupid short Thursday turnaround games and push for more games on the schedule, they need to take more appropriate steps to make sure the players don’t get put even more at risk.