NFL, NFLPA Planning Important Concussion Protocol Change In Wake Of Tua Tagovailoa Injury

The NFL and NFLPA are close to an agreement for a key change in concussion protocol. In procedures that could be implemented as early as next weekend, any player who shows signs of “instability” related to a possible head injury will not be allowed to return to the game. That’s according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who tweeted the news a short time ago.

It stems from the team’s and league’s handling of Miami Dolphins’ QB Tua Tagovailoa over the past week. Last Sunday, he appeared to suffer a head injury against the Buffalo Bills, holding his head and stumbling after taking a hit. But he was cleared to return to the game and finished out the team’s upset victory.

The team claimed it was a back injury and he never officially went through concussion protocol leading up to the team’s Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. In the first half, he was thrown down by Cincinnati’s Josh Tupou. Tagovailoa’s head violently hit the ground and he went into the fencing position, common with traumatic brain injuries. He was stretchered off the field and taken to a local hospital, the same Ryan Shazier was transported to following his spinal injury, and later released and flew home with the team.

Even prior to the game, many questioned how or why Tagovailoa could’ve been cleared to play. Those questions were amplified 100-fold following the second injury. The union has had an ongoing investigation since Sunday’s game with one independent physician fired over his handling over the initial injury against the Bills.

In response to the potential change in protocol, the league and union released a joint statement Saturday evening saying in part:

“The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety. 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.”

Essentially, the rule would show extreme caution over any player who shows signs of a concussion, even if they aren’t officially ruled with one on the sideline. Any player who stumbles, falls, or looks visibly concussed will no longer be allowed to reenter the game. Pittsburgh’s yet to have any player miss a game this season due to a concussion, though Minkah Fitzpatrick entered and exited the protocol this week. 

While the Dolphins may have followed every rule, there was at least a failing of protocol around Tagovailoa’s situation. A stricter rule is needed and it sounds like one is coming. It might not be the only change either.

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