NFL, NFLPA near agreement on concussion protocol changes after Tua Tagovailoa incident

Although the exact language is still being negotiated, the NFL and NFL Players Association are moving closer to a change in concussion protocol that would prevent a player from re-entering the game after a hit to the head and a fumble like Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered in 3rd week. against Buffalo.

Sources tell CBS Sports that the main change will focus on the offense. According to the Mayo Clinic, ataxia “describes poor muscle control that causes clumsy voluntary movements. It can cause difficulty with walking and balance, hand coordination, speech and swallowing, and eye movements.”

Tagovailoa showed major motor instability in the moments when his head hit the turf against Buffalo. This instability is considered “forbidden” in the concussion protocol unless the instability is determined to be non-neurologically caused. In Tagovailoa’s case, a back injury was what doctors appeared to determine as the cause of the instability, and he was cleared to return to the game.

Under the proposed protocol, Tagovailoa would not be allowed to re-enter the game. Essentially, if there is some kind of visible head trauma—a fall or helmet-to-helmet impact—followed by some kind of gross motor instability, that player would not be able to return to the game.

The hard line on engine instability and reintroduction to the game was difficult for the league and the association. A player can trip due to any reasonable medical issue, such as a back or ankle injury. Just because a player is unstable is not enough reason to remove them from the rest of the game.

Sources say the language is still being negotiated between the league and the union. There was optimism on both sides that the protocols could be in place by Thursday night’s game between Indianapolis and Denver. By Friday night, with no deal in place, the union issued a statement that put some public pressure on the league.

“Our union has agreed to change concussion protocols to protect players from returning to the game in the event of any similar incident to the one we saw on September 25,” the NFLPA’s statement said. “We would like these changes to take effect before this weekend’s games to immediately protect players, and we hope the NFL will accept the change before then.”

The NFL responded with a statement of its own shortly after Friday night.

“As we have discussed with the NFLPA, we agree that changes to the NFL-NFLPA joint protocols are necessary to further enhance player safety,” the league said in a statement. “We have already spoken with members of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the leadership of Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants and Independent Certified Athletic Trainers who serve as observers to discuss these potential changes.”

The NFLPA previously exercised its right to fire the independent neurotrauma consultant who examined Tagovailoa on Sept. 25. The union said the independent doctor made “several mistakes” in its view. The league has yet to comment on this.

The review of the handling of Tagovailoa’s concussion check during the game remains ongoing. There was similar optimism on Thursday that the review would be completed and findings made public by the end of the week, but that has yet to happen.

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