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American Football: Race and Concussion Claims

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

The National Football League (NFL) has announced that it will no longer apply in concussion lawsuits race-based formulas that assume that black players have lower cognitive functions.

By virtue of this so-called ‘race norming’ approach, black players, who have retired from American Football as a result of brain injuries and cognitive disorders, such as dementia, have received less than their white counterparts or, indeed, no compensation at all.

Under this assessment methodology, black players must show greater levels of cognitive decline in order to qualify for compensation.

The NFL, in the past, has sought to justify this difference in treatment as a means of correcting racial bias.

However, in a statement issued on 2 June 2021, the NFL has pledged to discontinue this practice; make retroactive payments to those who have been affected by the practice; and develop new testing protocols in conjunction with a panel of experts, which will include black doctors.

Dr Katherine Possin, a neuropsychology professor and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, commented as follows:

One danger to the continued use of race norms is it perpetuates a false idea that there are genetic differences in intelligence that fall along race lines and that’s simply not true.”

And added:

There are differences on average between blacks and whites because of differences in social experience.”

Yet another milestone on the way to racial equality in the US and not before time!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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