The National Football League and the NFL Players Association agreed to update the league’s concussion protocol on Saturday.
The decision follows a review of the response to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injury on September 25. Tagovailoa suffered an apparent head injury and was later allowed to reenter the game. Tagovailoa, 24, was later hospitalized for a concussion.
The league and union jointly announced the findings of the review on Saturday.
Under the new protocols, players will be unable to compete if they are experiencing ataxia, which describes a lack of coordination caused by poor muscle control.
The joint announcement described the conclusion and findings of their review of Tagovailoa’s injury as follows:
“While the investigation determined that the team medical staff and unaffiliated medical professionals followed the steps of the Protocol as written, the NFL and NFLPA agree that the outcome in this case is not what was intended when the Protocols were drafted.”
“As such, as has been done in previous cases, based on the advice of the parties’ respective medical experts, the Protocol will be modified to enhance the safety of the players. Specifically, the term ‘ataxia’ has been added to the mandatory ‘no-go’ symptoms. ‘Ataxia’ is defined as abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue.
“In other words, if a player is diagnosed with ‘ataxia’ by any club or neutral physician involved in the application of the Concussion Protocol, he will be prohibited from returning to the game, and will receive the follow-up care required by the Protocol.”
Tagovailoa was knocked out briefly during the second quarter of the September 25 game against the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins announced that he was questionable to return to the game with a head injury, and he returned to the field in the third quarter.
Then, on Thursday, he returned to the field when the Dolphins played against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was sacked by Bengals defensive lineman Josh Tupou and was taken off the field in a stretcher and hospitalized.
The incident led to calls for the NFL to reevaluate its concussion protocols and provide more stringent evaluation of players who suffer apparent head injuries.
The statement concluded Tagovailoa’s instability, however, was not due to a head injury but rather to a back injury.