No Way Tua Tagovailoa Returns After Head Slams to Ground, Demonstrating Fencing Response

Update (9:55pm): Tua Tagovailoa is conscious and has movement of all extremities

Tua Tagovailoa was slammed to the ground with serious force late in the second quarter. As he laid on his back his fingers were shown tensed up, arms in an unnatural position. This is called the fencing response. It’s a neurological response that indicates a concussion when the brain experiences trauma. When the fencing response occurs that often means it’s a pretty severe concussion.

Tua Tagovailoa was placed on a stretcher and will head straight to the hospital for further evaluation.

I really hate this because there’s a very strong possibility that Tua did actually suffer a head injury in week 3 that has made this more severe. The closer concussions are together, the more concerning they are and the more serious the next one typically is. Tua Tagovailoa appeared to stumble after getting hit in the head and then slamming his head to the ground. He stood up on his own but was unsteady. Tagovailoa left the game and underwent an concussion evaluation but was cleared to return, a controversial decision. The team later released a report indicating his back seized up. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now.

With such a serious injury I worry about intracranial hemorrhagic contusion. Surgery can be needed to relieve pressure on the brain. It’s more likely to occur with a second injury so quickly as the brain is still recovering from the first. There’s also something called Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), which is when a player experiences a second head injury before complete recovery from an initial head injury. In Tua’s case it would be two concussions in five days. SIS is rare but can be life-threatening due to brain herniation. The brain swells rapidly after impact and often can’t be treated quickly enough.

There’s also a concern for a neck/back injury. This could include a possible upper cervical spine fracture or spinal cord contusion as this can cause the arm to tense up like his did. I wasn’t able to see Tagovailoa moving his lower extremities as he was evaluated and then loaded onto the stretcher. Even if it’s not a spinal cord injury that would lead to paralysis, a less severe neck injury is possible.

Here is the report from week 3

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