The landmark National Football League (NFL) Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation case, which brought to public attention the high prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders among former players, has now exposed a major weakness in the field of neuropsychology: the use of race-adjusted norms as a crude proxy for lifelong social experience. Under the settlement agreement, retired NFL players who undergo cognitive testing and meet criteria for neurodegenerative disorders may be eligible for substantial monetary awards. In a new class action lawsuit filed on August 25, 2020, Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, 2 retired players who were diagnosed as having dementia but later denied benefits, accused the NFL of systematically discriminating against Black players filing dementia-related settlement claims. The plaintiffs allege that the NFL has “repeatedly insisted that applicants’ scores must be race normed by using separate Black and White reference populations—a position that greatly reduces Black players’ chances of success.”1 In this Viewpoint, we explain the practice and perils of using race-adjusted norms and propose a new approach that could replace the current standard.
Possin KL, Tsoy E, Windon CC. Perils of Race-Based Norms in Cognitive Testing: The Case of Former NFL Players. JAMA Neurol. 2021;78(4):377–378. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.4763
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