Carl Prine of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW recently examined the possibility that Ben Roethlisberger’s alleged anti-social behavior could be connected to head trauma suffered during NFL games and as the result of a motorcycle accident.
People who suffer repeated head injuries often exhibit signs of aggression, childishness, impaired self-control, inappropriate sexual activity and alcohol abuse, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“Ben Roethlisberger is a guy with a lot of concussions,” said famed forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht. “It would be a very wise decision, a very appropriate one, for the NFL to test him for damage related to them. That’s being very fair to Ben. It’s conceivable to think that there is a possibility that those concussions have led to some behavioral issues.“
This isn’t the first time that unfortunate social behavior by Pittsburgh Steelers has been linked to brain injuries.
Post-mortem examinations of the brains of Steelers Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk and Hall of Fame center Mike Webster found evidence of the syndrome chronic traumatic encephalopathy - a degenerative brain condition that affects cognition and player conduct, eventually leading to dementia.
With Roethlisberger’s documented head trauma, four concussions, 242 career sacks and a severe motorcycle accident, it’s hard to dismiss out of hand that it didn’t play a role in his antisocial behavior. But the problem with that idea is quantifying just how much Roethlisberger’s past brain injuries had to do with what happened March 5 in Milledgeville.
While doctors appear to be closing in on the emotional after-effects of NFL-wrought concussions, there’s still no direct linkage between specific brain injuries and specific behaviors.
Roethlisberger probably wouldn’t mind, at least legally, attributing his recent behavior to head injuries, but that prospect is an extremely dangerous one for the NFL. If hard medical evidence pointed to alleged criminal behavior as a result of NFL game play, you can imagine the social and financial impact it would have on the league.
Never has a sport been caught in such an ironic position. The more aggressive the NFL is about studying head injuries, the more likely the league will learn that the only way to avoid irreparable brain injury to players is to outlaw the violence that makes the sport so popular - and lucrative.
For that reason, the last thing the NFL would ever admit to publicly is that the very nature of its game not only leads to brain injury, but possible criminal behavior.
That means Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension isn’t likely to be reduced. At least as it pertains to any medical findings from NFL-affiliated doctors.