The Dolphins’ head team doctor is Dr. John Uribe, an orthopedist who is also the team doctor for the NHL’s Florida Panthers. It is unclear whether Uribe or another team doctor made the final decision to allow Tagovailoa to return against the Bills.
An NFL spokesperson said Wednesday that there was “every indication” that the doctors who evaluated Tagovailoa had followed the league’s concussion protocol. But the league and the players’ union said in a joint statement Saturday night that the investigation had not yet made conclusions about possible medical errors or protocol violations. They also said that discussions were underway about modifying the concussion protocol within days, specifically around the term “gross motor instability.”
The investigation, which should take no more than three weeks, will seek to determine “if a violation occurred and, if so, the proper disciplinary response.” If the league and union cannot agree on whether the protocol was violated, the complaint will be sent to an arbitrator.
The neurological consultants work on each sideline at every NFL game to assist team doctors if a player is thought to have sustained a head injury. These neurologists typically work at hospitals in the home team’s city. They are approved by the league’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, and the NFL Players Association medical director, Dr. Thom Mayer.
The union’s move to dismiss the neurologist may amount to a symbolic action because team doctors, not the unaffiliated neurologists, make the final determinations as to whether players sustained concussions and whether they can return to the game, according to the NFL’s concussion protocol.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the responsibility for the diagnosis of concussion and the decision to return a player to a game remains exclusively within the professional judgment of the head team physician or the team physician assigned to managing TBI,” the protocol says, using an abbreviation for traumatic brain injuries.
According to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, a neurological consultant can “present his/her own questions or conduct additional testing and shall assist in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions.”
In response to questions about the status of the team doctor or doctors who evaluated Tagovailoa last Sunday, a Dolphins spokesperson said the team was letting the joint investigation proceed.
The Dolphins have not said that Tagovailoa had a concussion during the game last Sunday. But he did sustain a concussion during Thursday’s game, the team said. A second concussion sustained before an earlier one has properly healed can lead to significant complications.
On Friday, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa had headaches but was generally feeling better. Later in the day, Tagovailoa said on Twitter that he was “feeling much better and focused on recovering so I can get back out on the field with my teammates.”
The team has not set a timeline for Tagovailoa’s return.
The New York Times