NFL, concussions and race issue


Once again, the NFL is at the heart of discussions involving the racial issue. This time, it is not for a knee on the ground or for the low proportion of coaches or leaders from minorities, but rather through a bias in the calculation of the compensation offered to retired players who suffer from problems related to concussions suffered during their career.

Should we not offer the same amounts to all former players? In theory yes, but they are not all affected in the same way. When a player claims to be suffering from cognitive decline, the severity of the problems must be assessed. Essentially, medical examinations establish what percentage of an individual’s cognitive abilities have been impaired.

Until then, difficult to perceive a bias penalizing black players. Yet it is there, in this calculation. To measure a loss of faculty or a decline, one must first establish a starting value. This is where the bias appears. We systematically set the cognitive faculties of colored players down. If they had less at the start, the losses are less, resulting in lower compensation.

According to the Axios website, this calculation of cognitive faculties finds its origins in the 1990s. It is the Dr Robert Heaton, neuropsychologist (University of California, San Diego) who integrated socioeconomic factors into his research. Essentially, he concludes that the socioeconomic background, including membership in a community, has an influence on the health of an individual.

Not only the work of this specialist is not unanimous, but the sample of the black population retained at the time of his work was not representative. Additionally, the NFL reportedly interpreted data from Dr Heaton in a simplistic and restrictive way.

It will be up to a court to decide whether this potential bias influences the formula the NFL uses, but one fact seems clear: the vast majority of those who get maximum compensation are white.

So on one side we have the NFL, on the other thousands of black players and in the middle, neurologists and neuropsychologists debating the scientific data. If the league believed it had gotten out of trouble by paying more than $ 848 million since 2013 to compensate players, it appears that is not the case.

I would like to say in closing that the vast majority of the 20,000 retirees of the NFL are black players. A good portion of spectators and viewers are also from minorities. While racial tensions are pervasive, this file will hold my attention for the next few weeks.

Discrimination is often insidious and can sometimes be found where it is not expected. Is there a new form of discrimination here within the prestigious circuit, discrimination induced by the scientific community? Once again, stay tuned.



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