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NFL to end “race-norming” dementia testing

Retired NFL players Ken Jenkins (far right) and Clarence Vaughn III deliver petitions to federal court in May. Associated Press/Photo by Matt Rourke

NFL to end “race-norming” dementia testing

In a deal filed on Wednesday, the National Football League agreed to a $1 billion settlement with thousands of retired players. The agreement promises to end a separate scoring system for dementia testing that lawyers say unfairly prevented black players from receiving funds from the league for brain damages. Of the 2,000 who have applied for dementia payouts from the league, only 30 percent received funds, and lawyers claimed that in some cases the NFL appealed an approval if the doctor did not use a race-adjusted formula.

What was wrong with the formula? Neurologists in the 1990s developed a scoring system for dementia diagnoses. They changed the system for black patients, assuming that they started out with lower cognitive function to begin with. This has made it difficult for those players to prove negative effects compared to before they started playing football. A panel of experts is tasked with creating a new formula that a federal judge must approve. More than 20,000 retirees have applied for the settlement program, which may give them the chance to get retested or receive overdue compensation.

Dig deeper: From the WORLD archives, read Bob Brown’s report on Concussion, a movie about a doctor who took the NFL to task for brain injury risks.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College graduate. She resides in Harrisburg, Pa.



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