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There is a lot of debate regarding the NFL draft stock of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa after suffering a hip dislocation and fracture. Tagovailoa suffered the injury on November 16, 2019, in the second quarter against Mississippi State after the tackle by Leo Lewis. Here are some medical facts on what happened and why Tagovailoa may fall out of the top ten picks.
Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Chris Raynor explained Tagovailoa’s injury in detail. Dr. Raynor said that Tagovailoa looked to be in extreme pain and was unable to put weight on his hip. He needed assistance to leave the field. He was immediately taken to a local hospital which then took him to St. Vincent Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama via a helicopter with a very serious injury.
The official medical diagnosis was a posterior hip dislocation with a posterior wall fracture. Dr. Raynor explained the injury in layman’s terms “The head of the femur pops out the back of the acetabular cup. The acetabular is the cup portion of the pelvis.” He further explained,” The posterior wall fracture means that the portion of the cup which makes up the back wall has been knocked off during the dislocation event.” He also said that posterior wall fractures occur in 50% of the cases involving acetabular fractures. This type of injury is associated with motor vehicle accidents as opposed to football tackles. Dr. Raynor explained how this injury occurs in motor vehicle accidents “It is caused a person’s knee hitting the dashboard and knocking femur out the back of the cup.” He went to explain that because Lewis is 245 pounds and Tagovailoa’s right knee was in a flexed position which impacted his hip. The force of the collision and Lewis’s weight falling onto Tagovailoa in addition to the position of his knee led to the injury. “All of this weight caused the femur to act like a nutcracker and to punch through the back wall of the acetabular knocking the posterior wall off in the process.”
Dr. Raynor said it could take a full year after the surgery for Tagovailoa to start an NFL game. However, Tagovailoa appears to be recovering more quickly than Dr. Raynor expected.
Former San Diego Chargers (now Los Angeles Chargers) team doctor, David Chao explained his thoughts on Tagovailoa’s injury. His statements were similar to what Dr. Raynor said but he added a critical point, arthritis will be an issue for Tagovailoa.
Early reports were alarming as the injury was immediately compared to legendary running back Bo Jackson’s career-ending injury. However, Jackson’s injury involved a loss of blood flow. Tagovailoa did not have a loss of blood flow. He underwent surgery on November 18, 2019. In fact, Tagovailoa performed so well on his pro day that it appeared the injury did not affect him at all. His MRIs came back positive and clean during the NFL combine.
Why should anyone think that Tagovailoa’s injury will cause him to drop out of the top ten picks? Does this sound like a far-fetched prediction or is this based on current facts? There is additional information that suggests that he will still fall out of the top ten.
Former Cleveland Browns General Manager Mike Lombardi said he knows of two teams that Tagovailoa failed physicals for. He would not say which two teams they were but he said one of the teams has a top ten pick.
Lombardi questioned Tagovailoa’s durability and called him brittle. Tagovailoa suffered several injuries in his football career including ankle sprains and a broken finger in addition to the major hip injuries. It is possible that Lombardi is incorrect or stating myths. However, Lombardi currently writes for The Athletic. He is not employed by an NFL team and therefore has no reason to deliberately state myths.
The fact that Lombardi said one of the failed physicals was for a team with a top ten pick means it was the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, or Los Angeles Chargers. Those three teams are looking for a new quarterback. However, there is a chance the Miami Dolphins will select Tagovailoa. The Dolphins have picks five, 18 and 26. Miami passed on Drew Brees after a failed physical and that turned out to be a bad decision.
Tagovailoa responded to the injury concern’s on CBS Sports Radio. He was asked if he thought his football career was over immediately after the injury. Tagovailoa said, “I don’t think that ever crossed my mind. At the time you know, I got carted off the field I was air-lifted to Birmingham, my body was still in shock mode.” He didn’t realize how serious the injury was until the doctors explained to him and his parents. They told Tagovailoa his season was over. He said he’s on pace for a full recovery.
General Managers may need to evaluate Tagovailoa’s ability to be a mobile quarterback. He possessed escape ability while playing for Alabama. His elusiveness gave him an edge against the NFL caliber defenses of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Will the arthritis be so painful that it limits Tagovailoa’s mobility? What about his durability? Can he just be a pocket passer and succeed that way?
March 2018-Broken Index Finger
October 2018- Sprained Ankle
November 2018- Knee Injury
December 2018- Sprained Ankle
October 2019- Sprained Ankle
November 2019- Hip Dislocation and Posterior Wall Fracture
Looking at the injury history of the past two years, he suffered a total of 6 injuries. NFL General Managers may need to be cautious about selecting Tagovailoa in the top ten.
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