It might be too soon to write off Tua Tagovailoa as the potential face of the Miami Dolphins going into the future.
Despite the Alabama quarterback’s recent injury, two South Florida doctors with decades of experience treating athletes and evaluating the health of NFL draft prospects say he has a very good chance of making a full recovery in time for the draft.
Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated right hip and posterior wall fracture requiring surgery in the game against Mississippi State.
According to orthopedic specialist Dr. Dan Kanell, who spent 23 years as the Dolphins’ team physician, “Every dislocation is different. And so you can’t say what happened to Bo Jackson is going to happen to this kid. This kid can have a very optimistic, total recovery.”
Kanell and Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the University of Miami’s UHealth Sports Medicine Institute, both say that the next three to six months will be critical in Tagovailoa’s recovery.
However, the Dolphins will draft in April.
What that means for Tagovailoa, according to Kaplan, is, “He’ll have X-rays and MRIs at the Combine. People will look and see if the fracture is healed. They’ll evaluate the joint surfaces based on the MRIs, and assuming that he’s healing well, he’ll — at a later date, because he won’t be ready for the Combine in three months — he’ll be retested in April or sometime before the draft, with a late Pro Day. And then you can see him moving around.”
Kaplan continues, “Will he have a risk? Yes, because he hasn’t re-established health to play again. But assuming that the fracture heals and everything else, there’s no doubt that somebody will think highly of him. It only takes one of 32 teams.”
The factor to consider in this case, Kanell adds, is that first responders were able to reset the hip in the socket immediately. He explains, They got it reduced immediately, the doctors on the field and the trainers. That’s really a key. As you could see, they did superb care at the time of injury.”
Tagovailoa is currently under the care of Alabama team physician Dr. Lyle Cain and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chip Routt. Cain released a statement calling last Monday’s surgery a success, and says, “Tua’s prognosis is excellent and we expect him to make a full recovery.”
However, Dr. Michael Banffy, the Rams’ team doctor, expects long-term effects. He explains, “It’s likely he won’t have the same speed and mobility that we’re used to seeing in him. That’s probably the most predictable long-term outcome.”
Kanell’s response is, “There’s no way to determine that. That’s totally inaccurate, because no one can predict that at this stage. The best people to predict this are the guys who operated on him, the people following him. That’s unfair to the kid to say that. You’re talking about an elite athlete. So even if he loses a fraction of what he has, especially at that position, he’ll learn how to compensate doing other things, such as throwing the ball a little differently or better, or something like that.”