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Report: NFL, NFLPA Agree to Modify Concussion Protocol amid Tua Tagovailoa Probe

Erin WalshOctober 1, 2022

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on September 29, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The NFL and NFLPA announced Saturday that they have plans to change the league's concussion protocol following the head and neck injuries suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

The new parameters reportedly "will rule out players who exhibit gross motor instability," per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, "regardless of any possible contributing factors." The agreement could take effect by Week 5.

The NFL said in a statement, via Pelissero:

"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."

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

My understanding is the new NFL-NFLPA concussion protocols are effectively agreed to, pending the formal approval process. <br><br>The announcement now puts everyone on notice for Week 4 Sunday (if they weren’t already): If there’s any doubt, get the player out. <a href="https://t.co/CtpoOVnK6C">https://t.co/CtpoOVnK6C</a>

Tagovailoa suffered injuries to his head and neck during a Week 4 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.

The 24-year-old took a huge hit from Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou and hit his head on the turf before being stretchered off the field and taken to a Cincinnati hospital for further evaluation.

Tagovailoa was diagnosed with a concussion and doesn't have a timetable for his return to the field. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is expected to play in his place.

The injury occurred just four days after Tagovailoa was allowed to return to a Week 3 matchup against the Buffalo Bills after being evaluated for a concussion.

After hitting his head on the turf in the first half against the Bills, Tagovailoa struggled to stay on his feet while jogging back to the huddle. He had to be helped up by teammates and was removed from the game. Tagovailoa said he passed concussion protocol during halftime, which is why he was allowed to finish the game.

The NFLPA has since announced that it has fired the independent neurotrauma consultant who cleared the quarterback to return to that matchup. An investigation by the NFLPA found that the consultant made "several mistakes" with the quarterback's concussion test, per NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe.

The investigation into Tagovailoa's concussion evaluation during that game is still ongoing, but the NFL's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, told NFL Media's Judy Battista earlier this week that the results of that investigation would be made public (h/t ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio):

“We want to be as transparent and open about this as possible. We certainly want to learn, to improve, to get better. And we want to be the best in the world at diagnosing and managing these injuries. And so if we find that we fell short, or if we find that there are things that we need to change, we will certainly be up front about doing that. We’ve done that before, and we will certainly do that again, if that’s what’s indicated.”

Sills added there would be "very serious consequences" if the investigation finds concussion protocol wasn't followed.

The Dolphins have faced plenty of criticism for allowing Tagovailoa to play in Thursday's game against the Bengals. However, head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters earlier this week that the signal-caller passed concussion protocol every day leading up to the game and on game day.

It's unclear exactly what the new concussion protocol will look like, but it's reasonable to believe it will be more extensive than what is currently in place.

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