According to a source familiar with discussions between the NFL and the NFL Players Association over changes to the league’s concussion policy, updates to the concussion protocol could come as early as Thursday.
“The urgency on getting it done before tomorrow is that we’ll have new protocols heading into Thursday night’s game, and that way we can have the new protocols in place before they play tomorrow night,” the source told CNN on Wednesday.
Current protocols prevent a player from returning to the field if they have any “gross motor instability” determined to be neurologically caused.
According to the source, the new goal is for any gross motor instability to be cause for removal from the field. “It’s ‘if you see a player fall down and not be able to get up as a result of any injury, they can’t return.’ That’s really the simplest way to describe it,” the source said.
The source noted that attorneys for the league and the players association are in ongoing discussions, including on the definition of gross motor instability.
Changes to the policies were sparked after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of a game against the Buffalo Bills on September 25. The 24-year-old got up awkwardly; he was taken to the locker room for a concussion check and cleared to return to the field.
Four days later, on September 29, Tagovailoa was sacked by Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Josh Tupou and lay motionless on the field for several minutes. He was ultimately stretchered off and taken to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion.
The NFL and the NFLPA said in a statement Saturday, “The NFLPA’s Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee and the NFL’s Head Neck and Spine Committee 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.”
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The NFL and the NFLPA are conducting an ongoing joint investigation into the Tagovailoa incidents. As part of the investigation, the source confirmed to CNN, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant involved in clearing the quarterback during the Bills game was let go by the players’ union, a move first reported by ESPN. The source added that the Dolphins’ team physician is being questioned as part of the investigation.