The NFL Players Association terminated the independent neurotrauma consultant involved in the decision to clear Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for Sunday’s game against the Bills, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reported Saturday.
ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques reported that the independent neurotrauma consultant made “several mistakes” in his assessment.
An unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant was added to the concussion protocol in 2016, following a decade of growing criticism of the risk of brain injury from football poses and allegations that the league is complicit. Unlike team doctors, these consultants specialize in the brain and have no vested interest in the team, but there are some questions about their independence.
After going down in the second quarter against Buffalo, Tagovailoa seemed to falter and apparently struggled to keep his balance. He was ruled out under league policy and assessed in the locker room before returning to Buffalo in the second half for Buffalo’s first loss of the season.
Despite facing scrutiny from fans and an NFLPA investigation into the decision to return Tagovailoa, the Dolphins insisted that his instability was due to a back injury and that he could return.
The decision was even more controversial in the court of public opinion when Tagovailoa took another pounding against the Cincinnati Bengals four days later.
Tagovailoa’s hands appeared to be clenched in a so-called fencing response, an involuntary response, after being tackled by Tigers defensive tackle Josh Tupou on Thursday. The impact is strong enough to cause traumatic brain injury. Tagovailoa was taken to a nearby Cincinnati hospital on a stretcher for evaluation. He flew back to Miami with the team and entered the league’s concussion protocol.
Thursday’s events left many questioning why Tagovailoa was on the field so soon after an apparent head injury — and everyone from the coaching staff, medical team and the NFLPA accused them of not doing more during the investigation.