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What The NFL Must Do To Better Their Concussion Protocol (AKA My Main Takeaway From Week Four)

Week Four had one singular story line that stood out from the rest. It didn't happen on Sunday or Monday, though. In fact, this incident went down on Thursday night between the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Tua Tagovailoa suffered a devastating concussion in the Dolphins' 27-15 loss, leaving his fingers crinkled and his body motionless. It looked devastating and life-threatening, but it wasn't the worst problem.

The week prior, Tua suffered a similar hit in a game against the Buffalo Bills. That raised the question of why the Dolphins quarterback was even starting that Thursday night game. It also put the NFL's concussion protocol under a microscope, leaving many critics of the league's current policy.

As it stands, the NFL has a five-step policy for getting back onto the field.

  1. Symptom-limited activity

  2. Aerobic exercise

  3. Football-specific practice

  4. Club-based non-contact training drills

  5. Full football activity/clearance

There isn't any mention of a rest period, nor is there any specific details on the minimum rest period for the concussed players. Compare that to the CDC's guidelines, which has six steps.

  1. Back to regular activities, i.e. school.

  2. Light aerobic exercise

  3. Moderate activity

  4. Heavy, non-contact activity

  5. Practice & full contact

  6. Competition

Note that the CDC mentions the parents of the athlete monitoring symptoms. Where was head coach Mike McDaniel in all this? Where were the team doctors monitoring the activities of Tua?

Also, concussion tests shouldn't be grounds for getting back onto the field immediately. In Tua's case, getting back on the field after a "back injury" when there are concussion-related symptoms should've never happened. That's especially true when Tua didn't even get a week's worth of rest.

How does the NFL fix this? For one, make the concussed player sit out for at least a week. Let the player recover for a week and regain their cognitive abilities. A major part of Tua's injury was him getting on the field four days after his devastating hit against the Buffalo Bills.

Also, get the head coaches and other personnel more involved. The NFL claims it'll be more transparent throughout the process, but to what extent? What measures will be taken to ensure this doesn't happen again? These are serious questions the NFL must consider.

While the doctor that evaluated Tua Tagovailoa's concussion injury was fired, that's not enough to combat the issue. The NFL has done a poor job managing concussion injuries for years and this latest example is no different. Unless Roger Goodell and the league start prioritizing player safety as much as their precious profits, this league will continue to be plagued by this problem.

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