The NFL Players Association fired the independent neurotrauma counselor who was involved in the decision to clear Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to return for Sunday’s game against the Bills, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reported Saturday.
ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques reported that the independent neurotrauma consultant made “several errors” in his assessment.
Independent neurotrauma counselors were added to the concussion protocol in 2016 amid a decade of mounting criticism about the risk of brain injury in football and allegations that the league is complicit. Unlike team doctors, these consultants specialize in the brain and have no personal interest in the team, however there are some doubts about their independence.
After going down against Buffalo in the second quarter, Tagovailoa seemed shaken and struggled to keep his balance. He was sidelined per league guidelines and assessed in the locker room before returning in the second half to give Buffalo their first loss of the season.
Despite fan scrutiny and an NFLPA investigation into the decision to allow Tagovailoa to return to the game, the Dolphins claimed that his instability was due to a back injury and that he was fully cleared to return to the game.
That decision only proved more controversial in the court of public opinion when Tagovailoa suffered another major blow to the Cincinnati Bengals four days later.
After being tackled by Bengal’s defensive tackle Josh Tupou on Thursday, Tagovailoa’s hands appeared to clench in what is known as the fencing reaction, an involuntary reaction severe enough to cause traumatic brain injury. Tagovailoa was removed on a stretcher and examined at a nearby Cincinnati hospital. He flew back to Miami with the team and put himself on the league’s concussion record.
Thursday’s incident has many questioning why Tagovailoa was on the field so soon after suffering an apparent head injury — with fingers pointing at everyone on the coaching staff, medical team and the NFLPA for failing to do more amid their investigations .