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The NFL Players Association exercised its right to remove the independent neurological expert who was involved in the decision to clear Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to return to a game last Sunday after being evaluated for a head injury, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The decision by the NFLPA came hours before the union and the NFL announced Saturday that they have agreed to modify the concussion protocols to eliminate an exception that allowed Tagovailoa to reenter last Sunday’s game even after stumbling upon getting to his feet following a hit. The league and union said in a joint statement that they “agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety.” They said they “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 NFLPA had declined to comment earlier Saturday on its decision regarding the independent doctor, citing its ongoing joint investigation with the NFL into the issue of whether the concussion protocols were followed properly in the case. Union officials had said Friday they were focused on the medical judgments made in the matter, more so than the overall process and whether the protocols were followed as written.
The league and union oversee the protocols in tandem, and either side can choose to end the participation of any of the independent doctors — called unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants or UNCs — involved in the concussion-evaluation process for players.
The NFL and NFLPA said in their joint statement that their investigation “remains ongoing” and they have not reached “any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations.” They said that they “share a strong appreciation for the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants who contribute their time and expertise to our game solely to advance player safety.” Tagovailoa is in the NFL’s concussion protocols after suffering a head injury during Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati. He struck the back of his head on the turf on a first-half sack. Tagovailoa was taken from the field on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to a hospital. He was diagnosed with a concussion, according to the Dolphins. Tagovailoa was released that night from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and accompanied the team on its