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What Happened to Russell Gage? The Buccaneers Player Was Hospitalized With a Neck Injury After a Scary Collision on the Field

It comes just two weeks after Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest on the field.
Russell Gage
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Just two weeks after Bills star Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after suffering cardiac arrest, another NFL player has been hospitalized with a scary injury. What happened to Russell Gage would pause the Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. Dallas Cowboys game on Monday, January 16, 2023, with just two minutes and 55 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.

The Buccs wide receiver, 26, was carted off the field in a neck brace during a time when player safety is reaching a crisis point in the NFL. The 2022/23 season has been plagued by high-profile injuries, like Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Foles who left a game after being sacked by a Giants linebacker, appearing to convulse with a rib injury. Hamlin himself was replacing Bills safety Micah Hyde who’s been out with a neck injury, while fellow teammate and Bills corner Dane Jackson became immobilized after injuring his neck in a game against the Tennessee Titans in September. Here’s the latest on Russell Gage.

What happened to Russell Gage?

What happened to Russell Gage? On Monday, January 26, 2023, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver was hospitalized with a concussion and probable neck injury after taking a hard hit to the back of the head from Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson. Gage appeared to try to stand up but couldn’t—he remained on his back as trainers swarmed around him and eventually placed him on a backboard to take him off the field in an ambulance.

Russell Gage
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

“They took him to the hospital right now, he has a concussion. They’ll also test him for potential neck injuries,” Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said in the postgame news conference. When asked if Gage had movement in his extremities, Bowles replied: “His fingers were moving when he was down there. I don’t know about the rest.”

In a statement released to Twitter, the Buccaneers gave an update on Gage’s condition. “After suffering a neck injury and concussion during the fourth quarter of last night’s game, Russell was taken to a local hospital where he remained overnight for additional testing and observation.” Gage was initially listed as questionable for the game against the Cowboys as he injured his back on a touchdown catch in Week 18 against his former team the Atlanta Falcons.

What is Russell Gage’s condition now?

The 26-year-old updated fans on his condition in a tweet published on the afternoon of January 17, the day after he’d been admitted to the hospital. “I appreciate all of the texts, calls, thoughts and prayers you all have expressed towards my family and I,” he wrote. “I just wanted to let you all know that I’m doing great and in great spirits! Thank you!”

Gage’s injury is just the latest in a long list of serious incidents that have come out of the NFL in the 2022/2023 season. After a seemingly routine tackle on Monday, January 2, 2023, Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and needed to be resuscitated before being rushed to the hospital. Hamlin would be down for more than 18 minutes while receiving medical attention on the field—both CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) were administered before an ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital. Bills players gathered around their teammate to shield him from public view, though they and their competitors were visibly distressed by what had occurred to their comrade.

The Bills defensive player experienced cardiac arrest after his tackle on Higgins, according to an official statement by his team. “Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals,” the statement said. “His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”

Damar Hamlin
Getty Images

Hamlin was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, nine days after he collapsed on the football field. According to a statement published by the Buffalo Bills on their official Twitter, Hamlin will “continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills.”

While Hamlin’s experience of life-threatening cardiac arrest is a rather rare incident on the football field, neck, head and spine injuries—which at worst can result in semi or total paralysis, even death—are a serious concern for the NFL. Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was famously hospitalized after two head injuries in as many games, calling into question the team’s handling of the league’s concussion protocol. The first incident occurred during a game against the Buffalo Bills when Tagovailoa was pushed to the ground and hit his head against the turf. He staggered to his feet and briefly collapsed to his knees as he tried to return to the huddle. He walked off the field and spent the first half in the locker room but returned to play in the second half. His return prompted the NFL Players Association to begin an inquiry into the Dolphins’ handling of the injury.

Less than a week later, Tagovailoa was tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive player Josh Tupou who threw him to the ground, hitting the back of his helmet on the turf. Tagovailoa raised his hands with his fingers splayed, a gesture called a “fencing response” that can be a sign of brain injury.

Technology, as well as the game’s rules, are evolving in an attempt to better protect its players.  In a 2022 update to the Use of Helmet rule, which was first adopted in 2018, players may not lower their head into a tackle, nor initiate contact with the helmet in any part of an opponent. Doing so results in a foul. Tackles must be made below the shoulders and above the knees, but players are able to be thrown to the ground so long as the tackle is deemed not “reckless or likely to cause injury,” which is up to the referee’s discretion.

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