NFL and NFLPA Agree to Updated Concussion Protocol

Following Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion scandal, the NFL and NFL Players Association launched an investigation and revised concussion protocols

NFL and NFLPA Agree to Updated Concussion Protocol

Vince Kim

The NFL and NFL Players Association came to an agreement on an updated concussion protocol that closes the “loophole” on gross motor instability as was seen with Tua Tagovailoa in the Miami Dolphins’ Week 3 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

The Dolphins quarterback received a hit from linebacker Matt Milano and temporarily left the game in what the team announced as a head injury. Tagovailoa was slow to get up and continued to stumble; he was ruled out for the remainder of the first half before returning to the game after halftime. Although Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel revealed to reporters that Tagovailoa had suffered a back injury in the postgame interview, the NFLPA and NFL launched a joint investigation on the handling of Tua’s concussion evaluation by officials.

Four days later, in the Dolphins’ Week 5 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tagovailoa was sacked and hit his head on the turf, flexing his fingers into an unnatural position, which was later recognized as a symptom of traumatic brain injury, indicating Tua had suffered a terrifying concussion. After lying on the turf without any movement for several minutes, he was eventually carted off the field. 

Fans, former players, and concussion experts who saw the frightening situation unfold criticized the Dolphins and the league for allowing Tagovailoa to start, denouncing their inaction as a failure to protect the league’s players. As a result, the new concussion policy designed to take another measure at protecting NFL players can already be seen taken into effect in recent games.

During Week 5, the NFL world called out on some controversial “roughing the passer” calls, a penalty issued when defensive players tackle the quarterback in dangerous ways. While the Atlanta Falcons’ Grady Jarrett and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones were both penalized for a “roughing the passer” call on Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, respectively, fans saw both sacks as fair and had very little danger of either quarterback sustaining a serious injury, which left them to question whether these calls are in relevance to the Tua Tagovailoa investigation. In a league meeting in New York, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent released a statement, saying, “Everyone knows if your quarterback is not healthy, you don’t have a chance to win,… We’re not going to back off of protecting the quarterback,” clarifying that the NFL is not backing down on protecting the quarterback. 

While the effect of the new concussion protocols can already be seen through contentious “roughing the passer” calls, one question still lingers: how long should players sit out after sustaining a concussion? With the current concussion research, experts cannot give a definitive answer due to the large variation of concussion recovery times. Meanwhile, Tua Tagovailoa passed the concussion protocol after Week 6 and returned in his Week 7 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Everyone sincerely hopes that Tagovailoa gets better and does not undergo another frightening concussion again.