N.F.L. Concussion Settlement to Eliminate Race as Factor

N.F.L. Concussion Settlement to Eliminate Race as Factor

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N.F.L. players, the critics say, are a distinct group and should be compared to the universe of pro football players, not the general population, to determine if their cognitive skills have declined.

Fewer than 700 of the more than 2,000 dementia-related claims have been approved in the settlement. The settlement also pays former players found to have Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, A.L.S. and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., which can only be diagnosed posthumously. At least half of all former N.F.L. players are Black and roughly 70 percent of the players now in the league are Black.

Hundreds of former players who had their claims denied will be able to have their test scores reassessed as well. More than 7,000 former players took free neuropsychological and neurological exams as the first step in filing their claims, or to be used as benchmarks should their cognitive and neurological abilities deteriorate in the future. Some of them may have chosen not to file claims based on the results, or may be unaware of how those exams were scored.

According to the document filed on Wednesday, the new method will be used to rescore claims and diagnoses and could potentially result in players receiving a payout for the first time, or a larger payout than originally estimated.

The retrospective rescoring will apply to cases where no impairment was determined, but Black race norms were applied during the player’s neuropsychological test; all dementia claims that were denied and had Black race norms applied; or claims that were denied or reduced because the doctor did not apply Black race norms.

Cyril Smith, a lawyer for Henry and Davenport, asserted that white players’ dementia claims were being approved at two to three times the rate of those of Black players. Smith has been unable to substantiate his claim because, he said, the N.F.L. and the administrator of the settlement have refused to provide any data.

But according to the settlement document, experts retained by both sides analyzed 700 claims and found that the use of demographic information “did not have a differential impact” on impairment ratings given to Black and white players.


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