Tua's Injury Stark Reminder How Fragile A College Football Saturday Can Be

Chris Dufresne

By my count it was only yesterday that Bo Jackson of the Raiders was racing downfield at the L.A. Coliseum when he was pulled down, from behind, by Cincinnati’s Kevin Walker.

It was actually Jan. 13, 1991, in an AFC playoff game. Jackson’s right hip caught awkwardly, in the turf, on Walker’s tackle.

None of us at the Coliseum that day imagined Bo Jackson would never play football again.

I was the Raiders’ beat writer for the Los Angeles Times. A few weeks later, sitting at my downtown office desk, a highly-placed source told me over the phone that Jackson’s football career was over.


The source, who can be revealed now because he is no longer living, was the Raiders’ team doctor.

I’ll never forget that phone call. The doctor said Jackson was suffering from “avascular necrosis” and would need hip replacement surgery. He told me Jackson could possibly return to baseball as a designated hitter.

The Doc was right.

So, the first thing I thought Saturday, when I saw the hip injury to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, was Bo Jackson.

Except Tua’s injury looked worse.

I thought maybe I was overreacting until I saw a tweet from Dr. Mark Adickes, a former pro football player who is now an orthopedic surgeon.

Adickes tweeted “Tua Tagovailoa injury similar to Bo Jackson injury.”

Adickes reviewed the play and saw it “consistent with posterior hip subluxation. Leads to labral tear. Surgery probable. Season likely over…”

Tagovailoa was air-lifted from Starkville, Miss, back to Alabama.

We won’t speculate beyond the obvious and acknowledge each case is different and that modern medicine has advanced in the nearly-30 years since Jackson’s injury led to “avascular necrosis” and hip replacement.

Tua, still recovering from “tight rope” ankle surgery performed less than a month ago, was obviously not 100% entering Saturday’s game at Mississippi State.

Coach Nick Saban said the injuries were not related. You can question why Tua was in a game his team was leading, 35-7. You can argue why Tua played at all in a game Alabama could have won without him.

"He was good, at least as good as he was a week ago in terms of his ability to move," Saban said of Tua in his post-game press conference. "I don't think anything he did affected his performance in the first half. So the guy played, and I thought he played really well. And we hate it that he got injured. We hate it for him. We hate it for his family. I hate it when any player on our team gets injured. So Godspeed to him and his entire family, and our thoughts and prayers are with them and hope this is not so serious it has any long-term effect on his future as a player."

You can question whether Saban, or Tua, thought they needed a statement win as the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide tries to stay alive in the college football playoff chase.

Those arguments, though, seem trivial at this point. We should NOT care how this impacts anyone's playoff chances. Our concerns should only be Tua’s health and well-being. He is a fantastic kid and is obviously a preeminent college football player.

Let’s hope immediate response-team action saved valuable seconds and started the process toward putting Tua back together again. Dr. Adickes noted on Twitter the importance to “Get the hip back in place gently ASAP and remove pressure from the joint.”

Longtime Tuscaloosa columnist Cecil Hurt relayed some more positive news Saturday evening via a statement from UA team surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain.

"Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip injury that was immediately reduced at the stadium. 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."

At this point we should not be arguing the hows and the whys.

We should just be rooting for Tua.

By my count Minnesota is NOT 10-0 for the first time since 1904, UCLA no longer controls its fate in the Pac 12 South and Baylor is no longer leading Oklahoma, 28-3…

Saturday was the day we said goodbye to the undefeated cute kids, Minnesota and Baylor, who no one really believed were going to go undefeated this season…and won’t.

Minnesota went down at Iowa, which just about three-quarters of the nation thought might happen, while Baylor blew leads of 28-3 and 31-10 to allow Oklahoma to make the biggest comeback in program history…It was just like old times in Waco on Saturday night—no dancing.

By my count Jalen Hurts would be the Heisman Trophy front-runner this year if not for LSU’s Joe Burrow. There were so many cruelties and ironies in the sport we love. Hurts played heroically (if not perfectly) on the day Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending injury…Hurts, of course, was benched and replaced by Tagovailoa in the third quarter of the national title game against Georgia. The Alabama Crimson Tide were trailing, 13-0. Tagovailoa led a dramatic comeback to win the national championship.

You have to wonder, though, what might have happened had Nick Saban let Hurts finish the game. Thirteen points? Shoot, that’s nothing. Oklahoma was down 28-3 early against Baylor, and some of that was Hurts’ fault. Yet he never lost relentless competitiveness and ended up willing his team to a 34-31 win. Hurts passed for 297 yards and four touchdowns and ran 27 times for 114 yards. Bravo…

By my count there won’t be much shuffling in this week’s College Football Playoff ranking. You could argue whether LSU, or Ohio State, deserves No. 1. Top-ranked LSU allowed 37 points to Ole Miss while Ohio State gave up 21 points to Rutgers. Which is the greater sin? My guess is LSU stays on top by a whisker...


Chris Dufresne