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Chris Nowinski says Tua Tagovailoa shouldn’t play the rest of the NFL season

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Why was Tua out there?

Why was Tua out there?
Image: Getty Images

After Tua Tagovailoa displayed concussion-like symptoms for a second time in a five-day span, with one confirmed concussion on Thursday after the Dolphin quarterback’s head bounced off the Cincinnati turf following a vicious second-quarter sack, Chris Nowinski, the co-founder, and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, thinks Tagovailoa shouldn’t play again this season.

This comes after Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters following his team’s loss that Tagovailoa suffered a concussion and nothing “more serious,” downplaying the severity of his quarterback’s injury. However, today McDaniel said he wouldn’t have played Tua if he thought he was endangering his quarterback.

Tagovailoa entered concussion protocols in the first quarter of last week’s game against Buffalo, but was diagnosed with a back injury and cleared the NFL’s concussion protocols to return in the second half. Nowinski, who earned his doctorate in Behavioral Neuroscience from Boston University School of Medicine, called B.S. on the determination immediately, noting that Tua was “showing five blatant concussion signs” prior to staring down Buffalo’s defense again. Nowinski sounded the alarm before Thursday’s kickoff against the Bengals, stating how Tua was rolling the dice with his health by playing. And the worst-case scenario happened at the hands of Cincinnati’s Josh Tupou, who threw Tua to the turf.

“There’s almost no doubt he’s had two concussions now four days apart, which can be career-ending,” Nowinski told Deadspin Friday morning by phone while participating in The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Forum on Traumatic Brain Injury, held in Washington D.C. “Three concussions in a season is rolling the dice with his future. If it was me, knowing what I’ve been through, and knowing how young and promising he is, he’s not back on the field this season. The Dolphins screwed up. And unfortunately, Tua’s the one that’s going to be punished somehow.”

Chris Nowinski speaking on concussion before Congress.

Chris Nowinski speaking on concussion before Congress.
Image: Getty Images

Nowinski, who serves on the NFL Players Association Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee, has become a prominent voice on the effects of head injuries and CTE in sports after suffering two concussions within a month while performing for WWE. Concussions he was not honest about two decades ago. His promising in-ring career came to a screeching halt and he’s “never been the same.” No one’s told him what is exactly wrong with his brain, why he developed a sleep disorder, why he got nauseous while working out for 15 years, or why he’s had severe headaches. It’s not confirmed but all signs point to his professional wrestling head injuries being the cause. Nowinski retired from the squared circle at 24. That’s coincidentally Tagovailoa’s exact age.

“Your brain essentially goes through metabolic and chemical changes that take at least a week and usually multiple weeks or months to get back to normal,” Nowinski, a Harvard grad, told Deadspin. “And if you have this energy crisis before your brain has recovered, you’re going to take brain cells that were recovering and permanently kill them. So we’re talking about permanent brain damage. And that could mean a longer recovery or chronic symptoms that prevent him from being able to play.”

The comprehensiveness of the NFL’s concussion protocols has come into question due to Tagovailoa returning in Sunday’s game and playing again Thursday night, with the NFLPA initiating an investigation into how and why he was cleared to play. Those head-injury parameters are in place to ensure an incident like Tua’s head smacking against the turf and going limp, five days after getting rattled against Buffalo, doesn’t happen. The NFL’s transparency of what went wrong and how their system needs an overhaul becomes one of the biggest storylines of the season. Miami goes from one of two undefeated teams with a future star behind center to clouded in doubt, all from an avoidable scenario where Tagovailoa’s health gets prioritized. This is an ongoing calamity, despite ESPN’s report that Tua’s “in good spirits” after flying back with the team post-discharge from a Cincinnati hospital.

“I don’t understand why (Miami) would risk his career unless they didn’t like him as a person or something,” Nowinski added of Tua. “No amount of money can make up for brain damage. That’s the reality we need to realize. I don’t care what the NFL fines the Dolphins or care what comes of this financially. The punishment should be enormous and no one ever does this again with another human being.”

Tua’s concussion, carting off, escort to a local hospital, medical evaluation, discharge, and convoy to make the Dolphins’ flight back to Miami took a few hours. Tagovailoa wore a neck brace on the flight but even the smoothest plane ride includes air pressure at 30,000-plus feet above ground and bouts of turbulence. Sitting in the restraints of the cabin for takeoff without sleeping was outright dangerous.

“Some people find that flying makes their symptoms worse,” the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, Canada stated regarding air travel with concussion symptoms. “To prevent problems, make sure you are well rested before going on a plane and sleep during the flight if you can.”

Having a team official drive Tua from Cincinnati to Miami would’ve been much better and even safer after a full night’s rest with team doctors monitoring Tagovailoa’s condition. It’s a near 17-hour drive, but the Dolphins don’t play again until Oct. 9 against the Jets.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith texted Andrew Whitworth and Richard Sherman, both part of Amazon’s Thursday Night Football’s coverage, the following: “We insisted on these rules to avoid exactly this scenario. We will pursue every legal option, including making referrals against the doctors to licensing agencies and the team that is obligated to keep our players safe.”

At the forum, Nowinski was surrounded by experts trying to help the public figure out treatment for traumatic head injuries. One of the factors is complete transparency on how serious concussions and CTE are.

“Unfortunately, the Miami Dolphins and the NFL are giving us the platform to remind people your brain is fragile, brain injuries can have permanent consequences, we both need to do what we can to prevent them, and we especially need to do what we can to prevent repeat injuries and let brains recover,” Nowinski said.

To improve the NFL’s concussion testing and protocols, Nowinski doesn’t advocate for any automatic medical suspension after head injuries out of fear of increased incentives to not report concussions in the first place. He believes the NFL’s focus should be on training team doctors more efficiently and creating a culture where they’re erring on the side of caution. Nowinski also pointed out that the NFL supported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussion-prevention phrase of “When in doubt, sit them out!” Instead, the NFL better followed guidelines from George Orwell’s 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Looking at Tagovailoa on Sunday, no matter how you diagnose his injury, throwing him back into the fire on Thursday was a tremendous mistake.





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Who’s to blame for Atlanta Hawks turmoil — Trae Young or Nate McMillan?

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Nate McMillan and Trae Young

Nate McMillan and Trae Young
Photo: Getty Images

Here’s a multiple choice essay question. You’ve got a blossoming superstar in Trae Young who has plateaued after some early career triumphs. Young is 24, played in a conference finals two seasons ago, but he’s also got a penchant for taking too many heat-check shots which are exhilarating to watch go in, but most observers shudder when he hits inevitable cold streaks.

However, Young has been working through soreness in his right shoulder, and during a shootaround Friday, was undergoing treatment on his shoulder according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick, when an argument between McMillan and Young erupted.

According to The Athletic, McMillan did not approve of Young’s stance and presented him with an ultimatum: Play off the bench or don’t show up to the arena. As a result, Young was surprisingly scratched from Atlanta’s lineup before their home contest on Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

So how would you respond?

A) Nate McMillan was right to give Trae Young an ultimatum!

B) Trae Young beefs with every coach. No big deal.

C) This is about more than just one shootaround.

D) All of the above

Correct Answer: D

McMillan needed to ease up, but he and Young have never vibed on the same frequency, and it remains to be seen if McMillan’s coaching style even fits this franchise’s needs.

McMillan chalked his dispute with Young up to a misunderstanding, but leaders in a locker room shouldn’t have the communication standards of two strangers arguing in a nightclub. In a climate where organizations hand nights off to their star players at a dizzying pace, treating one of the NBA’s most high-usage stars like a problematic diva before a low-stakes early December matchup, while he receives treatment on a shoulder injury, hints at some turmoil bubbling beneath the surface.

To paraphrase the sage words of Allen Iverson, “we’re talkin’ about shootarounds. Not a game, not a game, not a game, but a shootaround.” To his credit, Young is surprisingly durable, despite being one of the league’s bantamweight guards. In five seasons, he’s missed only 23 games.

However, this is about more than just one failure to communicate. Young and McMillan are speaking different languages. Since Atlanta’s run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2021, McMillan’s connection with Young has deteriorated to the point that the Hawks have held several team meetings to address their issues. Lloyd Pierce’s record led to his firing, but discord with Young was also at the forefront of his departure.

McMillan and Young’s tenuous relationship wouldn’t be as much of a concern if the Hawks were producing wins at the pace expected of them. Their 13-10 record to start the season is strikingly similar to Atlanta’s sluggish 12-11 record through its first 23 games in 2021. To McMillan’s credit, the shorthanded Hawks are still fourth in the East and beat Denver on Friday, 117-109. However, Atlanta is also three games out of the Play-In Tournament, and the team’s ceiling has more leaks in it than when team president Travis Schlenk constructed his Dejounte Murray-Trae Young backcourt atrium.

The white-hot offense that torched opposing defenses and led the league in points per 100 possessions last season is no more. The Young-Murray Hawks have improved from the 26th-worst defense to the top-10, but at the expense of their halfcourt offense, which is now a bottom-10 unit. McMillan’s offense ranks last in 3-pointers made, is ranked 22nd in effective field-goal percentage, which weighs 3-pointers more heavily and they’re missing the je ne sais quoi that made them an All-League Pass team.

Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter trade illustrates how the Hawks front office and their coaching staff have mismanaged their roster. Soon after the offseason of Dejounte Murray, Atlanta shipped Huerter, 24, to Sacramento in exchange for 33-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Mo Harkless and a 2024 first-round pick. The Hawks envisioned Huerter evolving into Klay Thompson Lite, playing off of Young, but more importantly they seemed to be taking a chance on Sacramento stumbling so they could inherit a lottery pick.

Instead, Huerter has reached new heights playing in Sacramento’s more decentralized offensive system that ranks second in the NBA in assists and more closely resembles Golden State’s than Atlanta’s Trae Young central attack.

Back to Huerter. In Sacramento, Mike Brown has channeled Huerter’s brilliance into a battery powering the NBA’s second-highest scoring team. He’s the NBA’s most frequent scorer off of handoffs and his two-man game with Domantas Sabonis has allowed him to flex his entire range of skills. Starting alongside Fox, Huerter is averaging a career-high 15.5 points per game, shooting better than 42 percent behind the arc and taking nearly seven 3s per game. He wasn’t getting those looks in Atlanta.

After getting bagged up by the Miami Heat in a first-round sweep last season, Atlanta didn’t just need a personnel change, they needed a cleanse. Trae Young needs a shooting profile that is more similar to Steph’s than James Harden’s. Young’s struggles are a microcosm of what ails the Hawks. They aren’t putting their offensive stars in the best position to score. Atlanta is heavily reliant on predictable isolations and runs more pick-and-rolls than all but one team. Even with De’Aaron Fox at the point, Sacramento has gone the Golden State route by running fewer pick-and-rolls than any team after ranking fifth during their abysmal 2021-22 campaign.

Last season, 14.2 percent of Young’s 2-point field goals were assisted on and 22.3 percent of his 3-balls were. Young has improved slightly, but only to 15 percent assisted 2-pointers and 38 percent of his 3-point makes.

Curry, the most efficient off-the-dribble shooter in league history, is scoring 36.5 percent of his 2-point field goals off of assists, nearly three times Young’s rate. On triples? 58 percent of the time. Getting Young easier buckets so he’s not wearing himself out would be a path to assure McMillan’s future employment in Atlanta.

How Schlenk navigates their plans to trade John Collins will determine Atlanta’s short-term success, but the hands on McMillan’s clock are approaching midnight. Former Warriors assistant Mike Brown unlocked the peak-Red Velvet version of Huerter that Atlanta thought they were getting. Atlanta upgraded the roster, but not the staff that deploys it. If the tumult continues in Atlanta, they may want to consider taking a bite off the Golden State coaching tree.





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Japan vs Croatia LIVE! World Cup 2022 match stream, latest team news, lineups, TV, prediction

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Japan this afternoon will look to add another famous scalp to an already remarkable World Cup run when they face 2018 finalists Croatia. With Spain and Germany already put to the sword, a place in the quarter-finals is now up for grabs. The Samurai Blue have never made it to the last eight.

Croatia are the seasoned veterans, though, with a midfield of Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic and the versatile Ivan Perisic patrolling the flank, meaning little with phase them at the Al Janoub Stadium today. Head coach Zlatko Dalic says his country continue to perform punch above their weight and a last-eight spot would be just their third in history.

The winner will face the victor between Brazil and South Korea, who play later today. Follow the game LIVE below with our dedicated match blog, featuring expert insight and analysis from Nizaar Kinsella at Al Janoub Stadium.

Live updates

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Croatia team news: Defenders taken ill

For Croatia, left-back Borna Sosa could be sidelined due to illness, while defender Josip Stanisic has a muscle issue. Otherwise manager Zlatko Dalic chould have a full squad to choose from.

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Japan team news: Tomiyasu looking to start

Hiroki Sakai and Takehiro Tomiyasu should both be fit for Japan today, although Ko Itakura is suspended and there is an injury doubt over Takefusa Kubo.

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How to watch

TV channel: In the UK, the match will be televised free-to-air and live on BBC One, with coverage beginning at 2.30pm.

Live stream: Fans can also catch the game live online via the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website.

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Welcome

Good afternoon and welcome to the Evening Standard’s LIVE coverage of the World Cup last-16 clash between Japan and Croatia.

Japan have never made it to the quarter-finals, while Croatia are looking to at least emulate their runners-up spot from four years ago.

Kick-off at the Al Janoub Stadium is at 3pm GMT. Stick with us.

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Pakistan vs England | Day five morning highlights

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Morning session highlights from day five of the first Test between Pakistan and England in Rawalpindi.



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