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NFLPA terminates unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who was involved in Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion check

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY Sports

The NFLPA has exercised its option to terminate the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who was involved in the handling of Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion review, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reported. Jones additionally reported that the NFLPA made the decision after discovering “several mistakes” made by the doctor in its view. 

Per the league’s Concussion Diagnosis and Management Protocol: “UNCs are appointed by the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee in consultation with the NFLPA Mackey-White Committee and approved by the NFL Chief Medical Officer and the NFLPA Medical Director, and have undergone formal UNC training provided by the NFL and NFLPA. 

“For the avoidance of doubt, the responsibility for the diagnosis of concussion and the decision to return a player to a game remain exclusively within the professional judgment of the Head Team Physician or the Club physician designated as responsible for the diagnosis and management of concussion.”

Tagovailoa appeared to suffer a blow to the head last weekend against the Buffalo Bills. He attempted to get up and run to the huddle, but stumbled and fell to the ground. The Dolphins initially announced that he was questionable to return to the game due to a head injury, but he later did return after the team deemed it a back injury instead. 

The NFLPA initiated a review of the matter early this week. On Thursday, Tagovailoa was cleared to play against the Cincinnati Bengals, and started the game for Miami under center. He sustained another head injury during the contest after he was slammed to the ground on a sack. 

Immediately, his fingers flexed into a “fencing position” — an involuntary response to head trauma. He remained on the ground for several minutes and eventually had to be carted off and taken to a local hospital to be evaluated for further injuries. He was discharged that same night and traveled with the team on its flight back to Miami, having been diagnosed with a concussion but no further injuries

The Dolphins’ decision to allow Tagovailoa to play on Thursday came under swift criticism, as did the NFL’s concussion protocol itself. The NFLPA stated earlier this week that it intends to pursue every legal option available in the handling of this case, while Jones reported that the league plans to be transparent with any findings that come from the review. Because Tagovailoa is in the concussion protocol, he had not yet been interviewed in the probe as of Friday. 

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