The NFL and NFL Players Association’s investigation into Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s evaluation found both independent medical professionals and the team’s medical staff followed the league’s game-play protocols, in a statement released Saturday.
The main takeaway from the NFL’s findings: “The outcome in this case was not what was expected when the protocols were written,” the NFL and NFLPA statement said.
Changes to the league’s concussion protocol, effective immediately for Sunday’s Week 5 games, include the addition of the word “ataxia” as a no-go sign. Any player who shows signs of ataxia – balance/stability disorders, motor coordination or poor speech caused by a neurological issue – is prohibited from returning to the game.
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“Protocol is in place to establish a high standard of care for each player where every medical professional makes a reasonable and rigorous evaluation of the player’s patent,” the NFL and NFLPA said in a statement.
“To that end, the parties remain committed to continuing to review our Protocol to ensure that it reflects the intended approach to screening athlete-patients for potential head injuries.”
The change was explained NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference in London before the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants game.
Specifically, there are medical examiners who followed protocols when examining Tagovailoa during the Dolphins’ win over the Bills on Sept. 25, the NFL and NFLPA said:
• Tagovailoa was cleared by the team doctor following an evaluation by an independent physician after the concussion protocol was followed, and was cleared to return to the game.
• The doctors also noticed Tagovailoa’s poor motor condition, which he showed by stumbling after trying to take several steps following the head injury he suffered due to the back injury he sustained in the game. Doctors did not examine Tagovailoa’s back after the fall, and instead conducted a concussion protocol. They relied on the initial test of his back during the game.
• Tagovailoa showed no signs or symptoms of a concussion during his locker room exam, the rest of the Bills game or the rest of the week.
Tagovailoa made national news after the Bills game, but that got even worse four days later when he was concussed after being tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Josh Tipou in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game.
Tagovailoa was treated at a Cincinnati hospital, and flew home with the Dolphins following the game wearing a neck brace. Tagovailoa’s tests for head and neck injuries were clean, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said last week.
The NFLPA finally fired the private doctor who was treating Tagovailoa after he was injured at Buffalo.
Tagovailoa remains in the concussion protocol and will not play in the Dolphins’ next game on the road against the New York Jets on Sunday. He also does not travel with the team to New Jersey.
“He is actively doing this. He’s still in the protocol obviously,” McDaniel said of Tagovailoa, who has been in the protocol for a little over a week. “There are a number of foreign experts that we’re using as well. And we’ll take it from there.”
Follow Safid Deen on Twitter @Safid_Deen