The NFL and NFL Players Association’s investigation into Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s evaluation for a concussion found both independent medical professionals and team medical staff followed the league’s concussion protocols, in a statement released Saturday.
The biggest takeaway from the NFL’s findings: “The outcome in this case is not what was intended when the protocols were drafted,” the NFL and NFLPA’s statement said.
The change to the league’s concussion protocol, effective immediately for Sunday’s Week 5 games, is the addition of the term “ataxia” as a no-go symptom. Any player showing signs of ataxia – an abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue – is prohibited from returning to a game.
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“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,” the NFL and NFLPA said in the 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.”
The change was hinted at by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during a news conference in London before the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants game.
Specifically, to the investigation doctors followed the protocols when evaluating Tagovailoa during the Dolphins’ win over the Bills on Sept. 25, the NFL and NFLPA said:
•Tagovailoa was cleared by a team physician following consultation from an independent doctor after the concussion protocol was followed, and allowed to return to the game.
•Doctors also determined the gross motor instability Tagovailoa showed by stumbling after trying to take several steps following his head hitting the ground was due to a back injury he sustained earlier in the game. Doctors did not examine Tagovailoa’s back after the fall, and instead conducted the concussion protocol. They relied on an earlier test of his back during the game.
•Tagovailoa showed no signs or symptoms of concussion during his locker room exam, the remainder of the Bills game or throughout the following week.
Tagovailoa became national news after the Bills game, but that only intensified four days later when he suffered a concussion after being tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Josh Tipou in the second quarter of a Thursday night game.
Tagovailoa was treated at a Cincinnati hospital, and flew home with the Dolphins following the game while wearing a neck brace. Tagovailoa’s evaluations for head and neck injuries were clean, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said last week.
The NFLPA eventually fired the independent doctor who treated Tagovailoa after he was injured against Buffalo.
Tagovailoa remains in concussion protocol and won’t play in the Dolphins’ next game on the road against the New York Jets on Sunday. He also won’t travel with the team to New Jersey.
“He’s diligently going through the process. He’s still in the protocol obviously,” McDaniel said of Tagovailoa, who has been in concussion protocol for more than a week. “There are several outside specialists that we’re also utilizing. And we’re going to take it from there.”
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