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Concussion protocol will make “gross motor instability” a “no go”

Mike Florio and Peter King explore how the NFL can evolve its protocol so players are protected from second impact syndrome, including adding a specific rule for gross motor skills.

Last Sunday’s controversy regarding the application of the concussion protocol to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa raises questions both about potential changes to the protocol and whether the current protocol was properly applied in Tua’s case.

As to the potential changes to the concussion protocol, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that, indeed, the “gross motor instability” loophole will be removed.

Currently, a player who demonstrates “gross motor instability” may return if the team physician, in consultation with the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant, concludes that the gross motor instability did not have a neurological cause. The new protocol will remove that exception. Any gross motor instability due to injury, head or otherwise, will keep a player from returning.

Any changes must be agreed to and approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. From the NFLPA’s perspective, the goal is to make the protocol less of a checklist for letting a player return to play and more of a clear set of guidelines for protecting players. The union wants players to be treated like patients, and to always have their best interests as human beings supersede their obvious desire as football players to be cleared to get back on the field.