The NFL-NFLPA Bottom Line Tua Tagovailoa’s Christmas concussion was handled properly

Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa is among what is believed to be a single-digit number of players who have suffered multiple concussions this NFL season, according to sources.

He suffered his second confirmed concussion of the season — and third with a hit to the head — on Christmas Day against the Packers. He was not checked for a concussion during the game and only met with doctors after experiencing concussion-like symptoms the following day. The joint review between the NFL and the NFL Players Association into the handling of Tagovailoa’s concussion revealed that “concussion symptoms did not occur or were reported until the next day,” meaning there was no reason to activate the protocol.

It is unclear if and when Tagovailoa will be able or cleared to return to action. The Dolphins ruled him out for Sunday’s game against the Patriots as they vie for a wild-card spot.

The concussion return-to-play protocol is the same regardless of how many concussions the player has sustained. However, a league source noted that there is always “rich and intense” discussion surrounding players with more than one concussion and their return to the game.

The league believes that player history could be considered a bigger factor in evaluating a player with multiple concussions like Tagovailoa.

No one has publicly confirmed when Tagovailoa suffered the second concussion, but video from the second quarter of the Packers game shows the back of Tagovailoa’s head hitting the turf. Concussion detectors are trained to look for a hit to the head followed by some type of injury behavior – swinging, being caught by the helmet or facemask, or fumbling.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said he noticed a difference in Tagovailoa when he watched tape Monday. When he met with Tagovailoa that day, McDaniel had Tagovailoa meet with doctors where he was then placed in the concussion protocol.

The review found that there was no injurious behavior in the immediate aftermath of the blow to the head. Inserting a policy into the protocol to check every player who hits their head for a concussion cannot be supported for the way the game is played, according to multiple sources.

There are five observers in the booth: two observers, a non-collaborating neurotrauma consultant (or independent physician), and two video technicians. Would adding another person or two help catch more head injuries?

“Everything is on the table,” a source said.

All three hits to the head this season for Tagovailoa have come in the back of the head. NFL research has shown that there quarterbacks regularly suffered concussions because of how they fall unprotected based on how the position is played.

The league has spent tens of millions of dollars developing safer helmet technology and continues to review helmets for specific positions. The league introduced the TRENCH helmet for offensive linemen, which provides more padding in the front of the helmet, where concussions typically occur for these players.

There is active work underway on a quarterback-specific helmet that will include mechanical padding on the back of the helmet, and there is a league belief that the quarterback-specific helmet will be ready within the next year.

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