The professional football consultant who cleared Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa play during the team’s Sept. 25 game was suspended, a source familiar with the matter said.
The consultant, who has not been named, gave his approval after Tagovailoa hit his head on the turf during Miami’s 21-19 home win over Buffalo. Next, Tagovailoa tripped and fell to his knees.
However, he was allowed to return to the game in the third quarter, and he played again Thursday in the Dolphins’ loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati, a matchup in which Tagovailoa’s head hit the turf during a sack by defensive tackle Josh Tupou.
Tagovailoa, 24, was taken from the field on a stretcher and is set aside indefinitely.
NBC Sports and its Pro Football Talk platform first reported the layoff of the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant.
The consultants are employed jointly by the players’ union, the NFL Players Association, and the league, according to the concussion protocol of professional football, which is intended to prevent the type of traumatic brain injuries that have. plagued the sport for decades.
According to the The NFL’s concussion protocolsthe team’s unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant is required to be “a physician who is impartial and independent of any club, is board certified in neurology, emergency medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, or any primary care CAQ. [certificates of added qualification] sports medicine certified physician or board eligible or board certified in neurological surgery, and has documented expertise and experience in the treatment of acute head injuries.”
The consultant wasn’t the only official involved in clearing Tagovailoa to play.
A league source said the NFL and the NFLPA jointly conducted interviews Friday afternoon with those involved in clearing Tagovailoa to play, including club personnel and the consultant who was fired.
In a joint statement, the NFL and the union said their investigation into the decision to allow Tagovailoa to play Sunday is ongoing, but that they agree the league’s concussion protocol needs to be updated to better define “gross motion instability” and use the signs to prevent further injury.
Under the league’s concussion protocol, a display of gross motor instability should trigger a concussion evaluation by medical personnel.
If the staff, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, determines that the screen did not have a neurological cause, the player may return to play.
The ugly injuries last Sunday and Thursday prompted widespread criticism of the system and staff to prevent such incidents.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw last night,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “I couldn’t believe what I saw last Sunday. It was just something that was amazing to see. I’ve been coaching for 40 years now, college and the NFL, almost 40, and I’ve never seen anything like this before. I couldn’t believe what I saw.”
Tagovailoa was rechecked each day before Thursday’s game, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told NFL Media.
After Thursday’s injury, Tagovailoa was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for evaluation before he was sent home with his team. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said it’s still unclear when Tagovailoa will be able to return to the field.
The team’s next game is on October 9 against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
CORRECTION [Oct. 3, 2022, 12:17 a.m.ET] An earlier version of this article misstated the location and score of the Sept. 25 Miami Dolphins-Buffalo Bills game. The Dolphins won, 21-19, and the game was played in Miami, not Buffalo.
The article also misrepresented the location of the Dolphins’ Sept. 29 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The game was in Cincinnati, not Miami.
David K.Li and Dennis Romero contributed.