The NFL and NFL Players Association announced on Saturday the conclusion of its review of the application of the league’s concussion protocol following the injury to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Miami’s Week 3 matchup with the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 25. They found that the protocols were followed. However, the two sides also concluded that the “outcome in this case is not what was intended when the protocols were drafted” and have thus added a modification.
Now, the protocols have been modified to include the term “ataxia” as part of the mandatory “no-go” symptoms. As the joint statement notes: “‘Ataxia’ is defined as abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue.” So, if a player is diagnosed with ataxia by the club or neutral physician that is involved with the application of the concussion protocol, that player will be prohibited from returning from the game.
This was an apparent symptom that Tagovailoa suffered against Buffalo. After taking a hit and falling on his head, Tagovailoa grabbed his helmet and shook his head several times. After he took several steps, he stumbled and fell to the ground and needed to be helped up by his teammates.
Meanwhile, the joint review concluded that Tagovailoa suffered back and ankle injuries earlier in the game. He told the medical staff involved that he aggravated his back injury on the play in question and it was the back injury that caused him to stumble. The report adds that Tagovailoa did not exhibit any signs or symptoms of a concussion during the locker room exam, during the remainder of the game, or throughout the following week.
Per the review: “The medical staff involved determined that the Gross Motor Instability (“GMI”) suffered by Mr. Tagovailoa was not neurologically caused. They concluded the player’s back injury was the cause of his observed instability.”
However, the review adds that the team physician and UNC did not conduct an examination of the quarterback’s back during the concussion examination, instead relying on the earlier examination conducted by other members of the medical staff.
Tagovailoa then played just four days later after that contest and suffered head and neck injuries, which required him to be carted off the field in Cincinnati. Tagovailoa did not practice this week with what the team listed as concussion, back, and ankle injuries and has since been ruled out for Miami’s Week 5 matchup against New York.