In the wake of the controversy surrounding Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the team’s handling of his injuries this week, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to make changes to the league’s in-game concussion protocols.
A joint statement released on Saturday reads, “The joint NFL-NFLPA investigation into the application of the Concussion Protocol involving Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains ongoing. Therefore, we have not made any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations.”
While that remains true, the investigation has already led to the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant involved in Tagovailoa’s case being terminated by the player’s union. A number of “mistakes” were cited as the reason that action was taken; adding more detail on that front, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network report that the UNC was fired due to “his failure to understand his role and hostility during the investigation process.”
At the center of the controversy is the fact that, under current protocols, the matter of “gross motor instability” being showed by players is subject to interpretation with respect to its cause. In Tagovailoa’s case on Sunday, his notable stumble after taking a hit was ultimately deemed a back injury, rather than a concussion. After the amended protocols come into effect, however, any player demonstrating a similar loss of balance will automatically be ruled out, regardless of team medical staff’s determinations on the specifics of an injury.
“The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety,” the statement continues. It adds that the league and union “share a strong appreciation for the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants who contribute their time and expertise to our game solely to advance player safety. This program has made our game safer for the athletes who play if for the past twelve seasons.”
The amendments are expected to be formally ratified in the coming days, and could take effect in time for Week 5. Over the course of the remaining games on this week’s slate, though, teams will no doubt proceed with enhanced caution in the event of any head injuries which take place.
Rapoport and Pelissero add, meanwhile, that Tagovailoa (who has been in concussion protocol since being carted off the field on Thursday) has undergone a series of tests, all of which have “come back clean.” By the time he is cleared to return, new regulations will likely officially be in place to try and ensure a repeat of his situation does not occur.