Although the exact language is still being negotiated, the NFL and NFL Players Association are close to changing the concussion protocol that would prevent a player from re-entering the game after a head injury and a trip like dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled in Week 3 against Buffalo.
Sources tell CBS Sports that the major change will focus on ataxia. According to the Mayo Clinic, ataxia “describes poor muscle control that causes clumsy voluntary movements. It may cause difficulty with walking and balance, hand coordination, speech and swallowing, and eye movements.”
Tagoviloa showed a momentary kinetic instability after hitting his head against the grass against Buffalo. This instability is considered ‘prohibited’ in the concussion protocol unless the instability is determined to be not neurological due. In Tagoviloa’s case, a back injury was what doctors appear to have identified as the cause of the instability and he was allowed to return to the match.
Under the proposed protocol, Tagovailoa will not be allowed to re-enter the game. Essentially, if there is some kind of visible head trauma – a fall or blow from helmet to helmet – followed by some type of motor instability, that player will not be allowed back into the game.
The hard line on overall engine instability and re-entry into the game has been difficult for the League and the Federation. A player can stumble due to any number of legitimate medical issues such as a back or ankle injury. Just because a player shows instability is not enough reason to remove them from the rest of the game.
Sources indicate that the language is still under negotiation between the Association and the Federation. There was optimism on both sides that protocols could be in place ahead of Thursday night’s game between Indianapolis and Denver. By Friday evening with no agreement in place, the federation released a statement that placed some public pressure on the league.
“Our union has agreed to change concussion protocols to protect players from returning to play in the event of an incident similar to what we saw on September 25,” a statement from the NFL read. “We would like these changes to go into effect before this weekend’s games to protect players immediately and hopefully the NFL will accept the change before that as well.”
The NFL responded with a statement of its own shortly after Friday night.
“As we have discussed with the NFLPA, we agree that changes to the common NFL-NFLPA protocols are necessary to enhance player safety,” the league statement read. “We’ve already spoken to members of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee, leadership of unaffiliated neurotrauma counselors, and independent certified athletic trainers who serve as monitors to discuss these potential changes.”
The NFLPA previously exercised its right to fire the unaffiliated trauma consultant who examined Tagovailoa on September 25. The union stated that the independent doctor made “several mistakes” in its view. The league has not yet commented on this.
The review into how the in-match Tagoviloa concussion examination is handled is still ongoing. There was similar optimism on Thursday that the review ended and the results were made public by the end of the week, but that has not yet happened.
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