The NFL Players Association has terminated the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant involved in Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's concussion check during Miami's game against the Bills on Sept. 25, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on Saturday.
Pro Football Talk first reported the news.
The NFLPA cited several factors in terminating the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC), including failure to understand his role as UNC and hostility during the investigation process, Pelissero and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport report, per sources. Pelissero adds that both the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and the Dolphins' team physician were interviewed on Friday.
On the sideline for every NFL game, the UNC is assigned by the league's head, neck and spine committee and approved by the NFL's chief medical officer and the NFLPA Medical Director. Dr. Allen Sills and Dr. Thom Mayer currently hold those roles, respectively.
On Saturday, the NFL and NFLPA announced in a joint statement that while the investigation into the handling of Tagovailoa's concussion check has not yet concluded, they have already begun having conversations about possible changes to the protocols.
"The joint NFL-NFLPA investigation into the application of the Concussion Protocol involving Miami Dolphins' quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains ongoing. Therefore, we have not made any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations," the joint statement said. "The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety. The NFLPA's Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee and the NFL's Head Neck and Spine Committee have already begun conversations around the use of the term 'Gross Motor Instability' and we anticipate changes to the protocol being made in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process.
"The NFL and NFLPA share a strong appreciation for the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants who contribute their time and expertise to our game solely to advance player safety. This program has made our game safer for the athletes who play it for the past twelve seasons."
Tagovailoa briefly exited Week 3's game versus the Bills in the first half with what the team initially announced as a head injury he sustained following a hit from linebacker Matt Milano, who was flagged for roughing the passer on the play. Once getting up on his feet, Tagovailoa shook his head and stumbled as he began to trot forward before getting taken out of the game. Tagovailoa later returned to play following halftime.
The league's concussion protocol states that gross motor instability means a player cannot return to the game if the "team physician, in consultation with the sideline UNC (unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant), determines the instability to be neurologically caused." Rapoport reported during Sunday's game that doctors determined that not to be the case with Tagovailoa, who re-entered the game after clearing a concussion evaluation.
Following the team's 21-19 win over the Bills, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel told reporters after the game that Tagovailoa suffered a lower-back injury in the first half, which was exacerbated by the hit from Milano.
The NFL on Wednesday stated that every indication shows that the protocol was followed in confirming that a review is ongoing into whether the Dolphins followed the league's concussion protocol with Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa was listed as questionable with back and ankle injuries entering Thursday night's game versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Midway through the second quarter, Tagovailoa was sacked by Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou and seemingly hit his head on the turf after getting slung to the ground. Tagovailoa remained on the turf for several minutes as trainers attended to him before taken off the field by a stretcher and then by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to be treated for head and neck injuries.
Tagovailoa was discharged from the hospital later that night and flew home with the team. There currently is no timeline for Tagovailoa's return to the field.
The NFLPA's investigation into Tagovailoa's concussion evaluation during Week 3's game versus the Bills is ongoing.