NFL Adjusts Concussion Protocols: What About the Quarterback Crisis?

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Anthony Abrahantes

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a devastating injury, which resulted in the alteration of the NFL’s concussion protocol.

After a devastating blow in the fourth week of the National Football League, the NFL’s Players Association addressed the situation with Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Minding the safety and well-being of its players, the NFLPA tampered with the league’s concussion protocols in response to multiple head-related injuries throughout the early part of the NFL season.

Following a Dolphin’s home victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 25, there was much controversy surrounding Tagovailoa’s return to the game. Prior to halftime, the quarterback was shoved to the floor by linebacker Matt Milano only to be shaken up after the play. He was initially cleared by medical officials and permitted to re-enter despite exhibiting signs of a concussion.

Tagovailoa received the green light from the Dolphins’ medical staff, and played in a Thursday night clash versus the Cincinnati Bengals. With just six minutes left in the second quarter, Tagovailoa was slammed to the ground once again by a Bengals defender. Displaying signs of neurological trauma, the quarterback was carted off the field and taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in an ambulance.

“Tua’s injury was horrifying specifically considering that it was the second injury in a span of a week. I have always been told by doctors that your brain could shut off in that way, but man seeing him non-responsive live is a scary and eye-opening experience. As a Dolphins fan, I can only hope for the best as his health and life were put in danger,” sophomore Antonio Vasquez said.

From the 2021 season alone, NFL players averaged eleven concussion-related injuries on a weekly basis. Taking additional steps to improve overall health, the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee is responsible for adjusting protocols whenever necessary. In fact, the league has experienced a sharp decrease in injuries since 2015 and capped with 187 reported concussions this last year.

The NFLPA released a joint statement on restricting any player with instability, lack of motor control and slurred speech to be allowed back on the field. Additionally, the league declared “ataxia” as a potential symptom, which prevents athletes from competing on the same day of the injury.

This proved effective on Oct. 9, when Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater absorbed a hit from a New York Jets defender and “stumbled” his way off the field. With new guidelines implanted days earlier, Bridgewater was not allowed to return according to NFL spotters and league officials.

“Being both a player and a coach for the major part of my life, I think the new change in protocol could serve as a breath of fresh air to the NFL. Football is full of tackles and hard contact, so it is vital for players to get a certain level of protection. Maybe this new change could show its effects in other sports [throughout] the next few years,” Mr. Miller said.

Across the sports world, concussions persist as one of the leading causes of emotional setbacks and lowered performance. Striving towards fairness of play, the NFLPA emphasizes the importance of the concussion policy and keeping it up to date.

Flaring discussions throughout the NFL, medical professionals are being held accountable for the safety of these multi-million-worth athletes. Evidently, Tagovailoa’s helmet to the ground resulted in a compromise between the NFL and NFLPA for the well-being of players and coaches alike.