Rewind to Nov. 22, when Ben Roethlisberger took Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson's knee to the head — months before the Steelers quarterback was accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia student in a nightclub.
Could Roethlisberger’s recent behavior be a result of this brain trauma?
While most would file this under "absurd excuses," some medical experts think the correlation is very plausible, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
"Until we examine a lot of people like Ben Roethlisberger and study the histories of brain injury and relate them to exhibited behavior, we won't be able to answer the essential questions that need to be answered," Dr. Thom Mayer, the medical director for the NFL Players Association, told the newspaper. "There's so much more we need to know."
According to the National Institutes of Health, cited in the article, recurring head injuries cause a loss of self-control, increased sexual activity and alcohol abuse. Frontal lobe damage causes a lack of inhibition and an alteration in mood and judgment. Big Ben has been sacked 242 times and suffered four significant head injuries, including three on the field and one in a serious motorcycle accident. His repeated trauma has doctors questioning if it is the root of his destructive actions.
"Ben Roethlisberger is a guy with a lot of concussions," noted forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht told the Tribune-Review. "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. The question I pose is simple: Can someone with several chronic or repetitive head injuries later display behavior that is socially undesirable? It's certainly possible, but we won't know that unless there is a proper evaluation, then work-up and treatment plan. It would be medically negligent not to include these sorts of tests as a part of this disciplinary process."
Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended Roethlisberger for up to six games, which could cost the quarterback $2.8 million. Goodell also required he undergo various medical tests and exams.
Head trauma in the NFL is a huge issue. The NFL just recently donated $1 million to Boston University for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research. CTE, also called "punchdrunk syndrome," deteriorates brain functions and cognition, affecting behavior and leading to dementia. Former Steelers Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk and Mike Webster all had brains scans showing signs of the syndrome.
Time will tell if Roethlisberger’s questionable conduct is excused because of his past collisions, but once the hailstorm passes, Roethlisberger could have a new (less dangerous) gig as the face and advocate for brain trauma research.