Tua Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated right hip in Alabama's win over Mississippi State on Saturday, yet another in a laundry list of injuries the electric Alabama quarterback has suffered over the last two seasons.
That injury will be a focal point as Alabama makes its way through the remainder of the 2019 season in its bid for a last-ditch run at the College Football Playoff.
At first glance, it seems as if the Crimson Tide's bid for a sixth straight Playoff appearance has suffered greatly without Tagovailoa, though it's worth remembering Ohio State won the inaugural Playoff in 2014 with backup quarterback Cardale Jones. That said, Alabama fans are more interested in his longterm health, as opposed to whether he can take the field for the Crimson Tide again this season.
Here's everything you need to know about Tagovailoa's injury and his timeline for recovery:
Will Tua Tagovailoa play again for Alabama?
Alabama has already ruled Tagovailoa out for the remainder of the 2019 season as he undergoes treatment and rehab on his hip. The more prevalent question is whether he will ever suit up again for Alabama football.
The likely answer to that question: No. Tagovailoa has consistently been graded as one of the top prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft, though that grade is in doubt after his injury. It's possible Tagovailoa could come back to Alabama, either to further rehab his leg or to prove to NFL teams he hasn't lost mobility, though the latter option carries high risk for little reward.
Even if NFL teams are scared off by Tagovailoa's injury, he has nothing else to prove at the collegiate level. He can instead spend the next months rehabbing his hip for a potential stint in the NFL, even if he is picked outside the first round.
What is Tagovailoa's injury?
Tagovailoa for certain has a dislocated hip, an injury not usually seen on the football field — it's a high-impact injury more typically seen in car crashes. It's also an injury most associate with former Auburn and Los Angeles Raiders running back Bo Jackson, though former Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley — who is still playing in the NFL — suffered a dislocated hip in the 2012 BCS championship game.
One of the immediate questions involving Tagovailoa's injury is whether he has a similar prognosis to Jackson's, who never played football again after suffering the injury against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC divisional round of the 1990 season. He was later found to have damaged cartilage in the area and was eventually avascular necrosis of the hip joint.
While Tagovailoa is still undergoing testing and evaluation, one potentially notable difference between his injury and Jackson's is that his hip was immediately treated by trained professionals on site, whereas Jackson reportedly popped his hip back into place on the sideline — damaging blood vessels in the area — and continued playing on it (though he didn't register another play). Alabama's team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said Tagovailoa's injury was reduced inside Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday, meaning Tagovailoa's hip was reset minimal damage.
“Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation that was immediately reduced at the stadium," Cain said. "He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season.”
A potential complication with Tagovailoa's recovery, however, is a reported posterior wall fracture (another similarity to Jackson's injury): Here is the definition of a posterior wall fracture, from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
"Fractures of the posterior wall of the acetabulum (hip socket) are the most common type of acetabular fracture, accounting for approximately 25 percent of all acetabular fractures. The simple appearance of the posterior wall fracture on plain radiographs underestimates its potential complexity. Rather than having one simple fracture fragment, most posterior wall fractures are comminuted or have areas where the articular surface along the margin of the primary fracture line is impacted into the underlying cancellous bone. In general, posterior wall fractures are amenable to nonsurgical treatment if the remaining, intact part of the acetabulum is large enough to maintain hip joint stability and congruity; however, this situation is often difficult to determine. Clinical outcome has been shown to be directly related to the accuracy of reduction, but accurate repositioning of all of the small posterior wall fragments is frequently a challenging task."
Reported recovery timelines for a dislocated hip is 6-8 weeks, while it is three to four months for acetabular fractures.
Tua Tagovailoa injury timeline
Tagovailoa's injury occurred with 3:01 remaining in the first half. He ran from the pocket and was brought down from behind by two Mississippi State defenders. He laid on the ground and, when he was helped up by training staff, was unable to put any weight on his right leg. He was eventually placed on an injury cart and removed from the field.
The injuries for Tua Tagovailoa the past few years have been brutal. pic.twitter.com/VUNdMzxos0
— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) November 16, 2019
After the game, Saban said Tagovailoa's injury was "a freak thing that you seldom see," adding he was at least as ready to play as he was against LSU the week prior.
Nick Saban on the decision to play Tua Tagovailoa. pic.twitter.com/5dmeCHJn5F
— Alabama Crimson Tide | AL.com (@aldotcomTide) November 16, 2019
After the game, Aaron Suttles of The Athletic reported Tagovailoa was out for the remainder of the season with a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture. Alabama later released a statement from Dr. Cain saying Tagovailoa's hip had been reduced and that he was "expected to make a full recovery." Alabama's statement made no mention of a posterior wall fracture.
Sunday following the game, Dr. Cain released another statement saying Tagovailoa would be flown to Houston to undergo surgery on Monday:
“For the past 24 hours our medical team has consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries," Cain said. "Based on that research, Tua is being flown to Houston (Sunday night) to be evaluated and is scheduled to have hip surgery Monday. As previously stated, we anticipate a full recovery. The main focus has been, and will remain, on Tua, his family, and making sure we are providing them the best medical care possible.”
Dr. Cain provided another update on Monday, saying Tagovailoa had undergone successful surgery and was resting comfortably. He called Tagovailoa's prognosis "excellent" and reiterated he expects him to "make a full recovery."
“Tua underwent successful surgery on his right hip Monday morning in Houston," Cain said. "The procedure went as planned, and he is resting comfortably. Tua’s prognosis is excellent, and we expect him to make a full recovery. He will return to Tuscaloosa in the next several days to begin his rehab.”
Laura Rutlege later reported that Tagovailoa will be on a "partial weight bearing recovery plan for six weeks" in Tuscaloosa. Then, he will reportedly resume athletic activity again after three months; he is expected to resume throwing by spring.
Tagovailoa returned to Tuscaloosa the Friday following his injury. The same day, it was reported the insurance policy he had with the University of Alabama did not include a loss-of-value policy, which would help him recoup millions from following down draft boards.
Tua Tagovailoa injury updates
Nov. 22 — Tagovailoa returns to Tuscaloosa.
Nov. 18 — Tagovailoa undergoes "successful" surgery on his hip; Dr. Cain labels his prognosis "excellent." Rutlege reports Tagovailoa will be on a six-week partial weight-bearing recovery plan, followed by resumed athletic activity. He is expected to be able to throw again by the spring.
Nov. 17 — Tagovailoa is flown to Houston to undergo hip surgery the following day.
Nov. 16 — Tagovailoa suffers a hip injury against Mississippi State. Aaron Suttles of the Athletic reports Tagovailoa has a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture. In a statement, Alabama orthopedic surgeon Dr. Cain says Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery, making no mention of a fracture.