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Tua Tagovailoa Feels He’s Less Prone To Brain Injury After “Learning How To Fall”

Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins looks on during pregame against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Santa Clara, California.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Last year was a whirlwind of an NFL season for Tua Tagovailoa. He got paired up with a whiz-kid coach in Mike McDaniel, who helped him achieve the level of quarterback play he was projected to reach when he was first drafted out of Alabama. He also experienced at least two concussions that raised a stir throughout the football-watching community. Tagovailoa's head injuries were so violent that it was hard to watch them and not come to the conclusion that maybe he would be better off retiring.

It seems that Tagovailoa himself also mulled over the idea of whether or not he should continue playing. When speaking with the press on Wednesday, he talked about how he considered walking away from the game this offseason before ultimately deciding he wanted to continue playing.

As he says in the video clip above:

Really, it would be hard for me to walk away from this game. With how old I am, with my son; I always dreamed of playing as long as I could to where my son knew exactly what he was watching his dad do. It's my health, it's my body, I feel like this is what's best for me and my family. I love the game of football and if I didn't I would have quit a long time ago.

Tagovailoa is certainly free to make that choice, but it's still an uncomfortable thing to hear him talk about. Maybe there's nothing to worry about, though, because later on in the press conference Tagovailoa shared that he's come up with a method that will help him avoid accruing too many hits to the head. Apparently, he's been training with a jiu-jitsu coach during the offseason, which has helped him learn how best to distribute his weight and energy while falling. From ESPN:

"We used crash pads to land on first, with trying to fall. ... Tucking your chin, that was one of the deals, but it went a lot more into the technique of how to disperse your energy when you fall," he said. "Kind of like the posture you want to be in, [and] if you're not presented that posture, what are other things that you can do to help you disperse the energy when you fall. So, it's a lot of those things. It's actually a lot cooler than you think when you hear of learning how to fall."


Well, then.

Ignoring for a second that football and jiu-jitsu are two completely different physical exercises, there's no clarity from Tagovailoa on how exactly learning advanced falling techniques will necessarily work to prevent hits to the head. Even assuming that there is a better method of falling, how does jiu-jitsu prepare you for getting bowled over by a man twice your size, or getting walloped from the blind side? Looking back at the plays on which Tagovailoa suffered brain injuries last year, it's hard to spot the moments where he would be able to think about tucking his chin and dispersing his energy. But Tagovailoa is only a white belt currently, so maybe that information comes with more training.

Tagovailoa clearly understands that he's on dangerous ground here, otherwise he wouldn't have admitted to contemplating early retirement. To move on from that consideration based on a few jiu-jitsu lessons indicates an attempt to avoid thinking too hard about the actual brutality this game inflicts on people. But that's also part of loving and playing football, so none of this is all that surprising.

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