Race-Norming Blocked Black NFL Players From Dementia Diagnoses


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Families of former NFL players are speaking out after they learning the league's race-norming protocol blocked them from accurate dementia diagnoses and financial compensation from the NFL concussion settlement.

Race-norming first surfaced last year after Black players learned their scores in cognitive tests used in dementia diagnosis were being curved differently from white players. The controversial practice used in neuropsychology wasn't enough to continue a civil rights lawsuit filed by Black players, a judge ruled, though attorneys for both sides remain in confidential mediation over the issue.

In June, the NFL publicly vowed to remove race-norming from the conditions of the concussion settlement, but attorneys representing the league have continued to defend the practice, according to court filings obtained by The Washington Post.

The NFL claims that race-norming didn't prevent players from qualifying for the pay out adding that if accurate dementia diagnoses were affected by race-norming, it was only "a fraction" of the hundreds alleged by the players' attorneys.

However, The Post reviewed medical and legal records provided by three former players' families, whose doctors each said race-norming impacted their dementia diagnosis and settlement qualifications.

Some players weren't even qualified to submit a claim with the league because of the practice, the outlet reported.

For the late Carlton Haselrig, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, who died suddenly last year at the age of 54, The Post found in its analysis that race-norming prevented him from qualifying for NFL-funded healthcare coverage and potentially a sever-figure payment in the final years of his life.

One of the doctors who evaluated players for dementia quit working with the league after seeing her diagnoses overruled.

"I just felt the patients were getting jerked around, rooked and cheated," Maureen Leehey, professor of neurology at the University of Colorado, told the outlet. "It just wasn't right."

Leehey worked with former Houston Oiler Johnnie Dirden, 67, who didn't even qualify to file a claim for the settlement because of race-norming.

Haselrig's widow, Michelle Haselrig, said she questioned why the NFL's attorneys were so adamant about keeping race-norming part of the evaluation of dementia claims. After noting how most of the players making the claims are Black, she said, "There you go. To save money."

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