Tua Tagovailoa’s injury reignites debate over how radio handles concussions

Like roaring touchdowns and high catches, serious injuries, especially head injuries, are a staple of the football experience – and football broadcasts.

So when Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was injured on the court Thursday night, it appeared to be his second head injury in five days, providing how Amazon is paying the NFL more than $1 billion to broadcast Thursday night. The first test of the game. , will deal with what has become a difficult balance for affiliate media partners.

The job of the broadcaster is to quickly decide how to play the wounded replay and how to place it in context. Tagovailoa was injured in last week’s game against the Bills and staggered to the ground after a hard hit. He left that game but returned after the Dolphins reported he cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol. The NFL Players Association has reviewed the handling and is in the process of doing so.

The game resumed from a commercial break Thursday after Tagovailoa was injured and replayed in slow motion his fingers flexed involuntarily after landing. “We’ll show you later how his fingers stretched out at the end of this game,” said game-by-play man Al Michaels.

Plenty of broadcasters were forced to determine the newsworthiness of injury reruns, and some thought they were not. A few seasons ago, CBS did just one rerun when Alex Smith suffered a serious leg injury. “It’s a philosophical question,” Howard Bryant, CBS’ vice president of production, said at the time. “It was a horrific injury, we described and documented it in depth, and as a team we thought it was enough.”

Amazon (whose founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post) replayed Tagovailoa’s injury again in the fourth quarter. The multiple replays sparked outrage from some fans on social media.

Tua Tagovailoa’s head injury sparks review of NFL concussion protocol

At halftime, the game’s studio staff returned to the topic of Tagovailoa, but made little mention of Tagovailoa’s injury and state the week before. Host Charissa Thompson alluded to it only indirectly, saying: “Given everything we’ve seen last week and now, it’s a really hard sight to see.”

But there’s no discussion about whether Tagovailoa should play first — not even by former cornerback and Amazon crewman Richard Sherman, who once posted on the Players Forum titled “Why I Hate Thursday Night Football” ‘s article. It cited his concerns about player safety and a short turnaround for Sunday’s game.

Not everyone believes the show should debate the Dolphins’ decision. Recently retired offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth responded to criticism from an NFL writer on Twitter.

“You just criticized the former player,” he wrote. “Who played the game. Take the time to talk about their football bros having movement and awareness. Right now, Bad Look cares about anything but Tua and his family. The policy is for [tomorrow]! “

Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, who started a program to educate broadcasters on how to talk to Bob Costas about concussions, said he was removed from NBC’s Super Bowl coverage for his comments about concussions. “The problem is, we all think Bob Costas is untouchable,” Nowinski said. “When he said a bad thing about football, he got kicked out of the NFL broadcast by NBC. I think it scares everyone. . . . I watch the game and hear the fear [announcers’] sound. If they say a bad thing about a concussion or bring it up in the wrong place, they lose their job. “

On Thursday’s pregame show, Amazon staff had a longer discussion about Tagovaloya’s injury the week before. The network also provided a more in-depth injury report after the game, including reporter Michael Smith’s detailed explanation of the league’s concussion protocol.

Michael Weinstein, a longtime executive and producer of sports, including NFL games, said balancing live coverage of serious injuries is the hardest thing a sports broadcast has to do one of the things. “You try to tell the story of what happened, but also make instant decisions,” he said.

Weinstein thought the background of Tagovailoa’s previous injury was important to stress, but he said it’s hard for broadcasters to speculate on whether a player should play.

“How do you say he shouldn’t play if the Dolphins and the doctors gave him the green light,” he asked. “Everyone has a hard time [color analyst Kirk] Herbstreit or anyone on the radio said so. “

Weinstein added that the way injuries are presented and talked about on TV is important to the NFL. When he met with the league on televised games before the season, executives always highlighted the work the NFL was doing to protect players — especially as awareness of concussions grew. “The NFL realizes there’s concern at every level,” Weinstein said.

Mark Maske contributed to this report.

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