NFL, NFLPA working to modify concussion protocols in light of Tagovailoa injury

Teammates gather around Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) after an injury during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Cincinnati. (Emilee Chinn/AP)

The NFL and NFLPA are working toward modifying the league's Concussion Protocol in light of the recent head injury to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the two parties announced in a joint statement released Saturday.

"The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety," the statement wrote.

"The NFLPA’s Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee and the NFL’s Head Neck and Spine Committee have already begun conversations around the use of the term 'Gross Motor Instability' and we anticipate changes to the protocol being made in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process."

The statement also said the league and players' association "have not made any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations" relating to the Concussion Protocol's application during Tagovailoa's injury against the Buffalo Bills Sunday because their joint investigation is ongoing.

Tagovailoa was hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half and appeared to hit his head on the turf. He stumbled when he got up and was immediately taken to the locker room, where he was evaluated for a concussion. He returned to the game at the start of the third quarter and was not in the concussion protocol the following week, despite questions about why he was allowed to return to the game at all after displaying "gross motor instability."

By NFL rule, those in-game evaluations when concussions are suspected involve not just team medical personnel but also an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant.

On Saturday, The NFLPA terminated the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who was involved in Tagovailoa's concussion check, NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero reported.

The investigation was reportedly initiated before Thursday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals when Tagovailoa was sacked by defensive tackle Josh Topou late in the first half. On that play, he spun awkwardly and was thrown to the turf. While on the ground, Tagovailoa appeared to display the fencing response, with his fingers frozen in front of his face.

He remained down for more than seven minutes before being loaded onto a backboard and stretchered off the field. He was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for evaluation.

The Dolphins later said he was conscious and had movement in all of his extremities. He was discharged Thursday night and flew back to Miami with the team.

Tagovailoa had a headache Thursday night and Friday morning, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. The team was waiting for results from the MRI, which McDaniel said was done out of “extra precaution” on top of the CT scans and X-rays taken the night before.

McDaniel said he had no timetable on when Tagovailoa might be able to return.

With files from The Associated Press

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