NFL-NFLPA Concussion Investigation: No Sanctions For Dolphins, Protocol Changing

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The investigation of the Tua Tagovailoa concussion issue conducted by the NFL and NFL Players Association has concluded. The Miami Dolphins, its medical staff and others have been cleared of any wrongdoing. But changes to the NFL concussion protocol are coming and will be in effect by Sunday.

Conclusions of NFL Concussion Protocol Investigation

The investigation conclusion reads:

While the investigation determined that the team medical staff and unaffiliated medical professionals followed the steps of the Protocol as written, the NFL and NFLPA agree that the outcome in this case is not what was intended when the protocols were drafted. As such, as has been done in previous cases, based on the advice of the parties’ respective medical experts, the protocol will be modified to enhance the safety of the players.  Specifically, the term “ataxia” has been added to the mandatory “no-go” symptoms.  “Ataxia” is defined as abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue. In other words, if a player is diagnosed with “ataxia” by any club or neutral physician involved in the application of the Concussion Protocol, he will be prohibited from returning to the game, and will receive the follow-up care required by the protocol.

So no sanctions for the club or its medical staff.

Dolphins players look on as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is carted off the field as part of NFL Concussion protocol.
Dolphins players look on as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is carted off the field and enters NFL concussion protocol. (Photo via Getty Images)

The report further concludes:   

“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.  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 initially was removed from the Sept. 25 game against the Buffalo Bills when he was pushed to the ground by Bills linebacker Matt Milano and hit his head on the grass when he landed. He got to his feet but then stumbled and was taken to both the blue medical tent and later to the Dolphins locker room to be evaluated for a head injury.

Tagovailoa was not diagnosed with concussion symptoms by the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant and the Dolphins team medical staff and returned to the game in the second half.

And Tagovailoa was not on the postgame injury report with a head injury nor was he on the following week’s injury report with a head injury. Rather, it was back and ankle injuries that made him questionable for the Thursday night contest against the Bengals.

Tagovailoa’s Concussion Comes Against Bengals

The Tagovailoa concussion came last Thursday in an Amazon Prime nationally streamed game against the Cincinnati Bengals. In the second quarter, Tagovailoa was tackled in the pocket by Bengals defensive lineman Josh Tupou, leaving Tagovailoa on the field turf, his arm parallel to his body and finger contorted in a terrible image that has been seen and replayed many times since.

Tua Tagovailoa Scary Snapshot Will Endure Long After Game Is Forgotten
Tua Tagovailoa taken down by a Bengals defender and later placed in NFL concussion protocol. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tagovailoa was transported to the hospital and eventually allowed to fly back to South Florida with the Dolphins, where he underwent further testing, got a clean bill of health from those tests, but remains in the concussion protocol and is out for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets.

And, of course, people who hadn’t mentioned the Tagovailoa hit against Buffalo before the Cincinnati game, went bonkers afterward, suggesting the Dolphins should be fined, McDaniel should be sanctioned for putting his player back on the field, and medical staff should be fired.

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Tua Tagovailoa remains in the NFL concussion protocol (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel Has Been In Crosshairs

Among those who criticized McDaniel and the Dolphins either directly or indirectly were current and former NFL coaches such as John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and former Jets and Bills coach Rex Ryan on ESPN.


McDaniel, meanwhile, defended his position to play Tagovailoa in the Cincinnati game by making the point he had been cleared to play and that’s where a coach’s decision-making process on the availability of players begins.

McDaniel, multiple times, said he would change nothing about the way he handled the situation.

“What I was kind of referring to in terms of not changing anything that I’d do was because the whole process for what happened on the Bills game was he was evaluated for a head injury immediately,” McDaniel said this week. “That’s what we brought him into the tent for or brought him inside for.

“He was evaluated and then cleared by several layers of medical professionals, who – I don’t pretend to be one – but those people, the collection of them, cleared him of any head injury whatsoever … So in terms of deciding whether or not to play a guy on a Thursday night game, I was concerned about his lower back and his ankle, and putting him in harm’s way.

“I have 100 percent conviction in our process regarding our players.” 

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

One Comment

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  1. It was extremely clear to anyone who saw Tua play in the second half of the Buffalo game that he was not impaired in any way. That should have given Rex Ryan, ESPN, John Harbaugh, etc, etc, etc. some pause before shooting their mouths. The NFLPA should have also concluded the investigation before firing anyone.
    I hope the independent medical professional sues the NFLPA and takes them to the cleaners, They deserve it.
    Tua should be OK after a couple of more weeks.

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