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NFL, NFLPA agree that changes to the concussion protocol are needed

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.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association often disagree. On an important issue of player safety, they are in lockstep.

The league and the union have released a statement regarding changes to the concussion protocol, in the aftermath of the Tua Tagovailoa situation.

“The joint NFL-NFLPA investigation into the application of the Concussion Protocol involving Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains ongoing,” the statement explains. “Therefore, we have not made any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations.”

Despite the fact that the investigation remains pending, the two sides already realize that revisions to the protocol are needed.

“The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety,” the statement continues. “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 based on what has been learned thus far in the review process.”

The change that needs to be made is simple, and it should be immediate. The “Gross Motor Instability” loophole should be closed. If a player demonstrates “Gross Motor Instability,” he should be ruled a “no go” for the remainder of the game.

“The NFL and NFLPA share a strong appreciation for the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants who contribute their time and expertise to our game solely to advance player safety,” the statement concludes. “This program has made our game safer for the athletes who play if for the past twelve seasons.”

Indeed they have. But it has been more evolution than revolution. Specific incidents have sparked change by exposing weaknesses. The Tua situation did precisely that. The best news, beyond Tua being fine, is that changes will be made ideally to prevent a recurrence of a player being noticeably wobbly after hitting his head on the ground and being allowed to return to the game.