Changes will no doubt be made to the NFL’s concussion policy and protocol following an incident involving a Dolphins quarterback yesterday. Tua Tagovailoa. It is possible that there will eventually be an overreaction. And that’s okay; that would be much better than not responding well enough.
The most immediate reaction should be simple and immediate. The loophole in relation to “gross motor instability” must be closed.
Under current protocol, a player who exhibits “gross motor instability” must be evaluated for concussion. However, he may return to play if the team’s doctor and independent neurotrauma consultant conclude that the gross motor instability has no neurological cause.
Regardless of why this loophole ever existed (maybe it’s as simple as allowing the possibility that a stumbled player just stumbled), it needs to be closed. Or, at a minimum, the wording should change to something like this: “gross motor instability that has no clear and obvious alternative cause, such as stumbling, pushing, pushing, sliding.”
It would be better to just close the loophole and let the team doctor and UNC know about gross motor instability when they see it. Because we all knew it when we saw it. On Sunday we saw it and knew it. Tua staggered and twirled as his head hit the ground. It was supposed to be, in the language of the protocol, “impassable.”
Due to the swordsman pose we saw last night after Tua’s head hit the ground, the player is unable to return. The same standard should apply to general motor instability. There should be no loopholes or exceptions because the reality is that when such loopholes or exceptions exist, the team doctors and/or UNC always find a way to exploit them.