How does the NFL’s concussion protocol work? Questions surrounding Tua Tagovailoa

When Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa appeared to suffer a head injury in Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, it raised questions about the NFL’s concussion protocol. Tagovailoa hit his head on the turf after being pushed by Bills linebacker Matt Milano. Grabbing his helmet with both hands and slowly gathering himself off the turf, Tagovailoa then stumbled and had to be held up by teammates.

He briefly exited the game with what announcers speculated could be a concussion. But he returned after passing the NFL’s concussion protocol and led the Dolphins to a Week 3 win.

Shortly after the game, the NFL Players Association announced it was launching an investigation into Miami’s decision to allow Tagovailoa to return. How does the league’s concussion protocol work and who has the final say about when a player returns to the field? We break it down.

What happens when a player appears to suffer a head injury?

The NFL has a board of independent and NFL-affiliated physicians and scientists, including advisers for the NFL Players Association known as the NFL head, neck and spine committee. This committee developed the league’s concussion protocol in 2011 but reviews and updates it each year to ensure the “most up-to-date medical consensus on the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of concussions.

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