Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Tua is bringing the fight to issue
Tagovailoa learning an unusual way to protect himself — through judo
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has found a unique way to combat his concussion problems.
Tagovailoa, in his first public comments since his third NFL season was cut short due to a second stint in the league’s concussion protocol, revealed Friday he is taking up judo once a week in the 2023 offseason.
“We got a plan set up, and I’ll be doing judo on Fridays, just so that I can kind of figure out understanding my body and how to fall,” Tagovailoa told FanDuel’s “Up & Adams” TV show. “Just trying to help myself.”
Tagovailoa’s two diagnosed concussions in the 2022 season — among three significant blows to the head he sustained — caused him to miss 5 ½ games. The last one, which led him to enter protocol Dec. 26, the day after Miami’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, sidelined him the final two regular-season games plus the playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. It took 37 days for him to be cleared through the NFL’s five-step process to return to play. He also was held out of participating in the Pro Bowl as an AFC alternate.
Tagovailoa also missed two games and the second half of the Sept. 29 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals after a hit that drove him into the ground caused him to lie motionless on the field with arms in a fencing response position. He was stretchered off the field and admitted to a Cincinnati hospital.
Four days earlier, in a win over the Bills, Tagovailoa displayed concussion symptoms when he was pushed back, banged his head against the turf and stumbled as he got up. That time at Hard Rock Stadium, however, he was cleared to return for the second half against Buffalo and to play the ensuing Thursday night game against the Bengals after doctors deemed he was merely playing through a back injury.
“I don’t think it forces me to be afraid of wanting to come back and play,” Tagovailoa said of the constant trouble with head injuries. “It definitely makes me want to do things to help myself by, hopefully, not being in those positions next year.”
The other concerning aspect is that at least two of the three instances occurred on fairly routine plays that weren’t egregiously hard hits.
One of the core principles of judo, the Japanese martial art and Olympic sport, is to adjust and evade an opponent’s attack instead of resisting their power. Some judo tactics and strategies could create muscle memory for Tagovailoa to land in better ways upon taking hits to conserve his body — and head.
Aside from the injury concerns, Tagovailoa had a successful third professional season, leading the league in passer rating (105.5) and yards per pass attempt (8.9). He threw a career-high 25 touchdowns to eight interceptions, completing 64.8 percent of passes for 3,548 yards.
The Dolphins have publicly committed to Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback in 2023, the final season on his rookie contract. The team also has a fifth-year option at $23.17 million on the table for 2024, with a May 1 deadline to exercise it.
Beyond his football career, Tagovailoa is inspired to stay healthy after becoming a father within the past year.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” Tagovailoa said. “Changes your lens on everything. I would say, for me, most importantly, how you talk to people, how you treat people, how you look at other kids. Life becomes enhanced.”