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NFL players’ union calls for changes in concussion rules by Sunday

The call for changes comes after questions were raised about Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, who was allowed to return to a game Sept. 25 and was injured four days later.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is examined during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 29, 2022, in Cincinnati.Jeff Dean / AP file

The NFL's players union said Friday it has agreed to changes to the concussion protocols and wants the revisions in place for Sunday's games.

The NFL did not commit to the union’s timeline but said it agrees that changes to the concussion protocols are necessary.

The call for changes to protect players comes after questions were raised following injuries to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Tagovailoa, 24, was hit and appeared woozy during a Sept. 25 game against the Bills but later returned to the field. He was allowed to play in a game against the Bengals four days later and was stretchered off the field with what the team said is a concussion.

“Our union has agreed to change the concussion protocols to protect players from returning to play in the case of any similar incident to what we saw on September 25,” the NFL Players Association’s board and executive committee said.

“We would like these changes to go into effect before this weekend’s games to immediately protect the players and hope the NFL accepts the change before then as well,” the union, known as the NFLPA, said.

The NFL said in a statement that it agreed changes need to be made, but it made no mention of changes by this Sunday when the next games occur.

“As we have discussed with the NFLPA, we agree that changes to the joint NFL-NFLPA protocols are necessary to further enhance player safety. We have already spoken to members of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the leadership of the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants and Independent Certified Athletic Trainers who serve as spotters to discuss these likely changes,” the league said.

The concussion protocol was established in 2011 and sets rules for the diagnosis and treatment of concussions. In part, it requires an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant to be present on the sidelines and focused on the identifying signs and symptoms of a concussion.

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said last week that Tagovailoa did not suffer a head injury in the Sept. 25 game against the Bills, and McDaniel said that he was "adamant" that Tagovailoa be evaluated for one.

The consultant who cleared Tagovailoa to return to that game has since been fired. The consultants are hired jointly by the players union and the league under its concussion protocol.

When Tagovailoa was slammed to the field in the Sept. 29 game against the Bengals in Cincinnati, he lay on the ground and his arms came up in what an expert said was a fencing posture, which is indicative of a serious blow to the head or neck and brainstem injury.

Tagovailoa is out this week with a concussion, and no return date has been given. An NFL injury report for Week 5 released Friday shows a concussion but also back and ankle issues.

The 3-1 Dolphins play the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday.