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    How the 2022 Tua Tagovailoa Concussion Saga Is Still Impacting the NFL

    The NFL's top doc told reporters Thursday that players have been flagged for concussions in 2023 due to the Tua Tagovailoa rule change.

    It’s been more than a year since Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa became the face of the NFL‘s concussion problem.

    Tagovailoa, fortunately, has so far avoided any head injuries in 2023 after two diagnosed concussions in 2022 — plus a third situation that would have put him in the concussion protocol had the rules that were changed because of him been in place.

    Tua’s high-profile medical issues led to a new standard that mandates that any player who exhibits ataxia (or gross motor instability) — as Tagovailoa did in the Dolphins’ Week 4 game against the Bills last fall — be immediately ruled out of the game, regardless of the results of any sideline or locker room tests.

    That no-go standard has been in place for 13 months now, and while the application of the very specific rule is rare, it has happened in the time since, NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

    The NFL’s Tua Tagovailoa Concussion Rule

    “I think it’s accurate to say [that potential concussions] would have been handled very differently this year as a result of that protocol change,” Sills said. “That’s why we made the change. And we have seen situations where players were diagnosed with a concussion because of ataxia.

    Sills added: “Thankfully, it’s not super common, it’s just not a common sign for that. We’re grateful, but we have seen it used to make the diagnosis of concussion this year.”

    Sills added that the NFL in the past year has made a concerted effort to educate the league’s concussion spotters, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants, team physicians, and athletic trainers this year on the signs of ataxia. The league wants uniformity in the application of the rule.

    Ataxia symptoms include abnormal gait, lack of coordination, slurred speech, deterioration of fine motor skills, poor balance, and tremors, per the National Ataxia Foundation.

    Sills’ comments came during a broader conversation about the league’s concussion protocol.

    MORE: Why Doesn’t the Miami Dolphins Offense Travel?

    During which, NFL EVP of communications and public affairs Jeff Miller stressed that the league does not want to outlaw the kickoff, even though the return rate is significantly down this year with the new fair catch rule (which was instituted for player safety reasons).

    A couple of other interesting stats that they shared during the Zoom call:

    • The median time spent in the concussion protocol is nine days, and 37% of concussed players return a week after the games concussions.
    • Between 30 and 40% of players placed in the protocol self-report symptoms.
    • No player has suffered a concussion on Sunday and played on Thursday in at least the last seven years. (Tagovailoa exhibited ataxia on Sunday but was allowed to return to the game and play four days later when he suffered a scary, diagnosed concussion in prime time.)

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