NFL/NFLPA making changes to concussion protocol

Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and the NFL Players Association agree that the Miami Dolphins followed the concussion protocol with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa last month.

However, following a joint investigation of what occurred after Tagovailoa’s original head injury in a Sept. 25 games against the Buffalo Bills, the league and union also agree that the protocol must be amended.

“The outcome in this case was not what was intended when the Protocol was drafted,” the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement released Saturday.

A modified protocol will add the term “ataxia” to the list of mandatory “no-go” symptoms. Ataxia is defined as an abnormality of balance or stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue.

In the future, if a team physician or neutral medical expert involved in the application of the concussion protocol diagnoses any player with ataxia, that player will be prohibited from returning to the game. The player will also receive the follow-up care required by the protocol.

In the Dolphins’ Week 3 game against Buffalo, the back of Tagovailoa’s head hit the ground when he was tackled by Bills linebacker Matt Milano. Tagovailoa grabbed his helmet, shook his head several times and then stumbled and fell after taking a few steps.

When he was examined at the time, Tagovailoa told the medical team he had aggravated a back injury and that was what caused him to stumble. He returned to the game in the second half.

The medical staff determined that Tagovailoa’s gross motor instability (GMI) did not have a neurological cause. “They concluded the player’s back injury was the cause of his observed instability,” read the NFL-NFLPA report.

According to the investigation, Tagovailoa did not report or exhibit any signs or symptoms of concussion during his locker room exam, during the remainder of the game or throughout the following week.

“The Protocol exists to establish a high standard of concussion care for each player whereby every medical professional engages in a meaningful and rigorous examination of the player-patent,” read Saturday’s joint statement. “To that end, the parties remain committed to continuing to evaluate our Protocol to ensure it reflects the intended conservative approach to evaluating player-patients for potential head injuries.”

Tagovailoa sustained a concussion during Miami’s Week 4 game against Cincinnati and will not play in Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

–Field Level Media

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