The investigation showed the Miami Dolphins followed concussion protocol with Tua Tagovailoa

The NFL’s concussion protocol was followed after Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered an injury against the Buffalo Bills last month, a joint investigation by the NFL and NFL Players Association concluded.

The parties issued a joint statement on their findings on Saturday.

“The outcome in this case was not what was intended when the protocol was drafted,” the statement said.

As a result, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to amend the league’s concussion protocol, adding the term “disorder” to the mandatory “no-go” symptoms. In the statement, they defined ataxia as “an abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination, or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological problem.”

If a player is diagnosed with a concussion by the team or other neutral physician, that player will be immediately removed from the game and will receive follow-up care.

Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa runs off the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 29, 2022, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images


In the first half of the Sept. 25 Week 2 game against the Buffalo Bills, Tagovailoa took a hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano, which sent him to the ground. He then appeared disoriented and stumbled as he struggled to his feet.

Tagovailoa was immediately taken to the locker room and followed the NFL’s concussion protocol, after which he was released. He returned to the game to start the third quarter, drawing criticism from spectators as to why he was allowed back into the game.

The NFLPA later announced it had launched an investigation into the situation. The association later fired Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant (UNC) who handled Tagovailoa’s injury during the match.

Less than a week after the injury, Tagovailoa started against the Cincinnati Bengals in a Thursday night game. He suffered a concussion in the first quarter after taking a hard sack, and showed the fencing response after the scary hit. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and immediately taken to hospital. He remains in the concussion protocol and will miss Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president who oversees health and safety, said in a mock news conference Saturday that he believes this is the first time a UNC has been fired and that the NFL did not support the decision to fire him.

The NFL and NFLPA said they reviewed video of the Bills game, jointly interviewed members of the Dolphins medical staff, the head athletic trainer, Booth ATC Spotter, UNC and Tagovailoa.

They found that Tagovailoa showed no signs or symptoms of a concussion during locker room testing, during the rest of the Bills game or during the week leading up to the Bengals game. But immediately after hitting from Milan, there was a lot of engine instability.

After the Bills game, Tagovailoa and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said the quarterback had injured his back a few plays earlier on a quarterback sneak.

The review said Tagovailoa told the medical staff that he aggravated his back injury on the play in question and that his back injury caused him to stumble.

It also said that medical staff determined that the gross motor instability was not due to a concussion.

“They concluded that the player’s back injury was the cause of his observed instability,” the parties said in the statement. “However, the team physician and UNC did not perform an examination of Mr. Tagovailoa’s back during the concussion examination, but relied on the prior examination conducted by other members of the medical staff.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell told a fan forum in London on Saturday that the NFL will make a “change or two” to the concussion protocol as he has criticized the handling of Tagovailoa’s injury.

“The protocol exists to establish a high standard of concussion care for each player,” the league and association said, “by which each medical professional participates in a meaningful and rigorous examination of the player’s 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.”

In an interview the morning after the Dolphins-Bengals game, neuroscientist Chris Nowinski, CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, said the Dolphins put Tagovailoa’s life in danger and failed to protect him.

“This is a failure on everyone’s part,” Nowinski told CBS Mornings. This is a failure of the medical team. This is a failure of the independent medical team on Sunday. This is a failure by the coaching staff. The problem is all these failures, none of them are going to be punished. The one being punished here is Tua.”

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