Tua Tagovailoa's Injuries Throughout His Career

Plenty of SEC college superstars never translate to the NFL, but Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa isn't one of them. Since he was taken as the fifth pick of the 2020 draft, the Hawaiian-born athlete has thrived in the league, throwing for over 1,000 passing yards and nine touchdowns in the 2022 season thus far, according to ESPN. He's been the beating heart of the team's offense, and his success on the field isn't surprising to head coach Mike McDaniel and offensive coordinator Frank Smith. 

"As a whole staff ... we've been so impressed with [Tagovailoa's] commitment to the process," Smith told The Athletic. "He has taken to the process, truly just owned the offense and really mastered what he's trying to do with each play and what he's trying to do as a leader."

The Dolphins have already threatened as playoff (and maybe even Super Bowl) contenders, but their dreams of a championship faltered when Tagovailoa suffered a head and neck injury during a September game against the Cincinnati Bengals, per Sports Illustrated. The hit was bad enough that Tagovailoa left the field on a stretcher, and the Dolphins — led by backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater — went on to lose to the Bengals, 15-27. Just weeks later, Tagovailoa was cleared from concussion protocol and headlined a Week 7 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, drawing criticism about the NFL's concussion policy. While it was Tagovailoa's second head injury of the season, it's only one of many injuries he's suffered throughout his football career.

Tua Tagovailoa had five serious injuries during his college career

Tua Tagovailoa might be a talented player, but he's also proven to be prone to injury — which means that the Miami Dolphins' success hinges on his durability. During his time with the Crimson Tide, Forbes reported that the quarterback suffered five injuries, including a broken left index finger, a sprained right knee, left and right ankle sprains, and a dislocated right hip. According to Sports Center, this last injury left him "screaming in pain as medical training staff had to pick him up and carry him off the cart." He consequently needed surgery, and missed several games as a result.

Tagovailoa's injury history meant that NFL teams "took a cautious approach" toward him in the 2020 draft, according to The Athletic, despite the fact that the quarterback "[felt] 100%" after his hip surgery. Pro football doctor Dr. David Chao claimed that Tagovailoa's tendency to get injured was tied to his fearlessness on the field. "The more you expose yourself to hits, the more prone to injury you are," he said on 106.7 (via Sports Illustrated). Either way, Tagavailoa's injuries have continued throughout his time in the NFL. While his rookie season was only marred by a thumb injury, he had a rib fracture and a fractured throwing hand during his second year in the league, per Sporting News. But it wasn't until his third year in the league that Tagovailoa began to incur more serious injuries.

Fans are outraged over Tua Tagovailoa's head and neck injury

Tua Tagovailoa suffered a back injury in Week 3 of the 2022-2023 season, though the Miami Dolphins initially ruled it as a head injury, according to Sporting News. Because he cleared concussion protocol, the NFL star was allowed to return to the field during the same game. This decision proved controversial. A back injury can be equally detrimental as a head injury, especially one that produced "gross motor instability," per ESPN. In fact, NFL policy dictates that a player demonstrating such signs be removed from the game without possibility of further play. One fan even suggested that the Dolphins staff was putting its team's chances of success ahead of the well-being of their quarterback.

Four days later, Tagovailoa was sacked in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the hit left him lying prone on the field. The Dolphins tweeted that the QB was "taken to the hospital" for examination, where he regained consciousness. But sports fans hadn't forgotten the earlier knock that Tagovailoa had taken. Appearing on "First Take," ESPN's Stephen A. Smith argued that "somebody needs to be fired" over the handling of Tagovailoa's injuries. Currently, the NFL Players Association is also said to be investigating the way the Dolphins franchise handled Tagovailoa's injury in the Bills game, so it's possible that repercussions are on the way. In the meantime, Yahoo! Sports reported that Tagovailoa has plans to take on the Detroit Lions in Week 8.