NFL and NFLPA Release Statement Following Tagovailoa Investigation

The NFL and the Players Association (NFLPA) agreed to update the league’s concussion protocol on Saturday. The move comes after a review of the response to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injury.

The investigation found team medical staff and unaffiliated medical professionals followed the steps of the protocol. Still, the NFL and NFLPA agreed the outcome in the case of Tagovailoa’s injury is not what was intended when the protocols were written. Based on the advice of both parties’ medical experts, the protocol was modified to ensure and enhance the safety of the players.

Under the new protocols, players will not be able to play if they experience ataxia—a lack of coordination caused by poor muscle control. The term was added to the mandatary “no-go” symptoms. If a player is diagnosed with ataxia by any club or neutral physician involved in concussion protocol, they will not be able to return to the game and will receive necessary follow-up care.

The NFLPA launched the investigation after Tagovailoa went down during the Dolphins-Bills game on Sept. 25. He displayed signs of a concussion after showing poor motor skills, buckling over while trying to walk the injury off.

Both the NFL and NFLPA reviewed reports and video and interviewed members of the team’s medical staff, head athletic trainer, the booth ATC spotter, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC), and Tagovailoa.

This is what was found and what was published in the joint statement on NFL dot com:

  • During the play in question, the player was tackled and fell on his back and then hit his head on the ground. The player grabbed his helmet, shook his head several times, and after he took several steps, he stumbled and fell.
  • The Club medical team and the UNC properly viewed the video of the play in question as required by the protocol and engaged in a locker room examination of Mr. Tagovailoa before the player was cleared to return to play. The Team physician cleared Mr. Tagovailoa, following consultation with the UNC. The steps set forth in the Concussion Checklist were, therefore, conducted.
  • Mr. Tagovailoa suffered and reported back and ankle injuries earlier in the game. Mr. Tagovailoa told the medical staff involved that he aggravated his back injury on the play in question and that his back injury caused him to stumble.
  • Mr. 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 medical staff involved determined that the Gross Motor Instability (“GMI”) suffered by Mr. Tagovailoa was not neurologically caused. They concluded the player’s back injury was the cause of his observed instability.  However, the team physician and UNC did not conduct an examination of Mr. Tagovailoa’s back during the concussion examination, but instead relied on the earlier examination conducted by other members of the medical staff.

Despite Tagovailoa’s injury, he re-entered the game against the Bills and was cleared to play just four days later on Sept. 29 against the Bengals. Tagovailoa proceeded to take a hard hit to his head and was carted off the field.

Tagovailoa has looked great in his third season with the Dolphins, leading the team to a 3-1 record with more than 1,000 yards in the air and eight touchdowns. His wide receiver corps of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle both rank in the top 10 for receiving yards with Hill at No. 1 with 477 yards and Waddle at No. 7 with 381 yards.

He is listed on the Dolphins’ injury report for week five with concussion, back, and ankle designations and will not play against the Jets in an AFC East rivalry clash. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will start in his place as the Dolphins look to stay atop the division.

(Photo: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images/Cropped)

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