Some clinicians tasked with evaluating former NFL players’ eligibility for compensation under the league’s landmark 2013 concussion rule fear that the testing process and protocols discriminate against black players ABC News investigation published Wednesday has found.
The New York Times reported in August that two former black players – the defensive end Kevin Henry and the retreating Najeh Davenport – have filed a lawsuit against the NFLand accused the league of “explicitly and deliberately” discriminating against black players who are making claims related to dementia.
It is a process called “race normalization” that has been used by scientists for decades to correct the lower level of education that is often found in minority communities. It is designed to prevent the overdiagnosis of cognitive impairments in these communities. However, according to Henry and Davenport’s lawsuit, it has the opposite effect when applied to NFL concussion regulation – making it harder for players to show cognitive decline.
When former players make a claim for compensation, they are put through a series of tests to measure their cognitive functions. These ratings are compared to a baseline rating, or “norm,” which is intended to represent a normal level of cognitive function. If the score falls far enough below this norm, the player is entitled to compensation. But the norm for black players is lower than that for white players.
According to ABC News, breed adaptation is not a requirement for clinicians evaluating former players. However, the test protocol manual recommends a “full demographic fix” that includes age, gender, and race.
According to ABC’s findings, partly based on emails from a professional listing service, some clinicians involved in the settlement are now asking whether the recommendation to adapt to the race is necessary in practice.
Clinicians, according to the ABC investigation, wrote that the league’s protocols drowned their professional judgment, sometimes leading to a “drastically different outcome” for former players seeking help.
In the emails checked by ABC News:
• A neuropsychologist claimed the league’s program manual did not offer such flexibility: “I don’t think we have the freedom to choose,” the clinician wrote. “If we do that, it looks like a lot of us got it wrong.”
• Another wrote about her possible complicity in a system that perpetuated “racial inequality” in payouts: “Particularly in … our current state of affairs, I recognize and regret my guilt in this accidental systemic problem of racism.” Clinician wrote. “As a group, we could have been better lawyers.”
• Another claimed that while their “required reliance on these norms is set out in the manual”, it is up to them to consider the consequences of adhering to them: “The bottom line is that the norms discriminate against black players,” the clinician wrote. “So now what? In this time of reckoning, as in many professions, we must carefully examine the expected and unexpected effects of our practices.”
The NFL denied the results, saying in a statement that the concussion settlement “agreed by all parties with the assistance of experienced neuropsychological clinicians and approved by the courts more than five years ago” and “is based on widely accepted and long-established cognitive principles.” Tests and assessment methods. “
“The deal seeks to give retired players more accurate testing,” said an NFL spokesman, “and therefore allows independent clinicians to consider the race to adjust the test scores of retired players as in their typical practice.”
Attorney Christopher Seeger, who represented the players in the class action lawsuit that spurred the concussion settlement, made a statement to ABC News through a spokesman asking the court overseeing the administration of the settlement to issue a “clarification” on the issue .
“The use of race-based demographic norms is ultimately left to the clinical judgment of the neuropsychologist and is not required by the agreement,” Seeger said in the statement. “To the extent that confusion is suspected, we would support a clarification from the Court of Justice to make it clearer that the use of demographic adjustments, including for race, is not required and that the neuropsychologist examining a player should be professional Use judgment to select the appropriate demographic adjustments to apply to the player’s test scores. “
The NFL Players Association, the union that represents current and former players, declined to comment.
ABC news reporters Pete Madden, Cho Park and Ryan Smith contributed to this report.