The doctor whose groundbreaking research on head trauma inspired the 2015 movie "Concussion" starring Will Smith is warning injured Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to walk away from the gridiron.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, who is widely credited with discovering chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of football players and combat veterans, made a passionate plea for Tua to retire during a recent media interview.
Omalu, who has not treated or examined Tua, said the quarterback "suffered severe, long-term permanent brain damage" on the scary hit that rendered him in the so-called fencing position against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football in Week 4.
"Tua, my brother. I love you," Omalu told TMZ Sports. "I love you as much as I love my son. Stop playing. Stop. Hang your helmet and gallantly walk away."
Tua, who starred collegiately with the Alabama Crimson Tide, was stretchered off the field after he was spun around and slammed on a sack by Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou. The third-year signal-caller came down on his backside, with his head snapping backward and bouncing off the artificial surface at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.
The incident came just four days after Tua appeared to be out on his feet after similarly banging the back of his head on the turf at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on a late hit by Buffalo Bills linebacker. Tagovailoa was cleared to return to that game, prompting an NFLPA investigation about the handling of the league's concussion protocol.
For Omalu, the disturbing scene in Cincinnati was more than enough to say Tagovailoa should "find something else to do."
"If you love your life," Omalu told TMZ, "if you love your family, you love your kids -- if you have kids -- it's time to gallantly walk away. Go find something else to do."
Tua was rushed to a local hospital in Cincinnati, where he was later discharged. He flew home with his teammates, reportedly watching a movie on a mobile device, prompting further concern on social media.
Tagovailoa has been ruled out for the Dolphins' Week 5 game against the Jets, but a day after his injury, he took to Twitter to thank everyone for their support, and signaled his intent on a speedy recovery so that he could return to the field.
Omalu, though, doesn't agree with that approach.
"He should stop," Omalu said. "Sometimes money is not more valuable than human life. $20 billion is not worth more than your brain."
Omalu's research in the first decade of the 2000s triggered the NFL's first major crisis over its handling of head injuries.
The Nigerian-born doctor's findings prompted the league to institute the concussion protocol, as well as a years-long quest to develop safer helmets, plus the instituting of on-field rules meant to curb crushing hits such as targeting and blindside blocks.