The NFL Players Association terminated the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who was involved in the decision to clear Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to return to Sunday’s game against the Bills, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reported on Saturday.
ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques reported that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant made “several mistakes” in his evaluation.
Unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants were added to the concussion protocol in 2016, amid a decade of mounting criticism about the risk of brain injury football poses and allegations that the league is complicit. Unlike team doctors, these consultants are specialized in the brain and have no vested interest in the team, however there’s some doubt about their independence.
After going down in the second quarter against Buffalo, Tagovailoa seemed shaken and visibly struggled to maintain his balance. He was sidelined, as per league policy, and evaluated in the locker room before returning in the second half to hand Buffalo its first loss of the season.
Despite facing scrutiny from fans and an investigation from the NFLPA for the decision to have Tagovailoa return to the game, the Dolphins maintained that his instability was due to a back injury and that he was fully cleared to return to play.
That decision only proved more controversial in the court of public opinion when Tagovailoa sustained another heavy blow four days later against the Cincinnati Bengals.
After being tackled by Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou on Thursday, Tagovailoa’s hands seemingly clinched in what is known as the fencing response, an involuntary reaction to impact strong enough to cause a traumatic brain injury. Tagovailoa was taken off in a stretcher and evaluated at a nearby Cincinnati hospital. He flew back to Miami with the team and has entered the league’s concussion protocol.
Thursday’s incident has many questioning why Tagovailoa was on the field so soon after an apparent head injury — with fingers being pointed at everyone from the coaching staff, medical team and the NFLPA for not doing more in the midst of their investigation.