NFL changes concussion protocols based on recent investigation

By Reese McBride

In week 4 of the NFL season during the second quarter of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tua Tagovailoa was sacked. He did not get up. It is possible that in week 3 he had already suffered a concussion but he was not on the Miami Dolphins’ injured list.

During Tagovailoa’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Tagovailoa suffered an ugly hit and struggled to stand and walk while his hands were on his helmet, as if he was holding his head. Tagovailoa was taken to the locker room and assessed by sideline doctors who allowed him to return to the game. The doctors declared that he had struggled to get off of the field because of injuries to his back and ankle, not his head.

The doctors that assessed Tagovailoa most likely tested his motor skills and balance. Many prime athletes can pass these tests. Another factor that can complicate a doctor’s decision to pull an athlete based on a concussion is the fact that symptoms can show up hours, days, or even months later. While weak motor skills can be a sign of a concussion, there are other signs that should be taken into consideration when diagnosing an athlete. For example, any confusion while resting, or an intense pressure inside of the head.

The NFL and the National Football League Players Association recently investigated the Dolphins’ medical team and the NFL’s unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant — who has since been released — and Tagovailoa’s doctors who cleared him to play in Week 4. The result of the investigation was that while Tagovailoa was tested according to old NFL concussion protocols, they were insufficient to recent standards and new rules and tests have been implemented to try and make the game safer for all athletes.


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