KHSAA commissioner, Lexington doctor weigh in on player safety following NFL QB’s injuries

KHSAA Commissioner reacts to NFL's concussion protocol
Published: Oct. 1, 2022 at 11:15 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett oversees more than a hundred football games each Friday night in the fall, with player safety at the front of his mind. So anytime he sees an injury like the one Tua Tagovailoa suffered, he says it should compel leagues at all levels to look for loopholes in their concussion protocols and try to close the gaps.

Tagovailoa first got injured after getting hit last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, and was seen wobbling on the field soon after. He was ultimately cleared to keep playing and returned later in the game.

Four days later, he took the field again and suffered another injury, causing widespread concern.

“He was posturing, which generally at that time can mean serious neck or brain injury,” said Dr. Jeff Foxx, a Lexington physician.

“I was absolutely shocked that he was even available Thursday, quite frankly, after seeing Sunday,” said Tackett.

Tackett says football is a violent game by its nature. But it doesn’t always take a violent hit to deal serious damage.

“Data we’ve seen shows that helmet to the ground causes more concussions than anything else,” Tackett said.

Lexington physician Dr. Jeff Foxx says any brain injury is dangerous and should be handled carefully. Tackett says Kentucky’s protocols embrace exercising as much caution as possible.

“The kids playing at our level, their brain is still forming,” said Tackett. “We’re always gonna be more cautious.”

Anyone with a concussion cannot play for the rest of the day after diagnosis. But what happens afterwards?

“The quagmire or the confusion is what if it is a concussion - and if it was - what do you do down the line?” Dr. Foxx said.

Tackett says unlike the NFL which employs third-party doctors to avoid gamesmanship…Kentucky requires clearance from the person’s main doctor.

“They know if they’re susceptible, maybe they just don’t recover from things well,” Tackett said.

Tackett hopes this incident causes people to focus on returning to full health, rather than just returning to the field as quickly as possible.

“The concussion itself may not be as bad as you getting back out there too quickly before you get another one,” said Tackett. “Does the brain have time to recover?”

Seeing this scary situation unfold with such a prominent pro player, Tackett wants to remind players, parents and coaches that no game is more important than ensuring a healthy future.