Could the Case of Ben Roethlisberger Serve as Expose on NFL and Concussions?

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IApril 5, 2010

This is a question that has plagued my mind, ever since the accusations of sexual assault arose against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The underlying defense of Roethlisberger has been, "Why would a Super Bowl winning quarterback need to force himself on someone?"

However, if you consider a few circumstances, such as Roethlisberger's long history of head injuries, as well as, the example of Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to two Super Bowl victories, while Bradshaw led the Steelers to four victories.

The other defense has been a double-standard, which is that Roethlisberger should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, when the same people did not afford that defense to players suspended by the NFL, such as Pacman Jones.


When a Super Bowl winning quarterback has got no game

What does Bradshaw have to do with this?

To be brutally honest, Bradshaw's long trouble with finding women has been well publicized, even prompting Jay Leno to attempt to find him a girlfriend via The Tonight Show.

Whatever it may be, most women still have a line and won't date some guy because of money or even fame.  Sadly, Ted Bundy had more game than Bradshaw apparently does.

"When you're clinically depressed the serotonin in your brain is out of balance and probably always will be out of balance. So I take medication to get that proper balance back. I'll probably have to be on it the rest of my life."

Bradshaw and many other football players from that era often suffered from more serious injuries, because medical science is not what it is today.

Only recently though has the NFL taken up the issue of concussions and the long-term effects that those injuries can have, despite studies that rebuffed the NFL's position.

Clinical and neuropathological studies by some of the nation’s foremost experts demonstrate that multiple concussions sustained during an NFL player’s career cause cognitive problems such as depression and early-onset dementia. Dr. Bennet Omalu, M.D., a forensic pathologist at the University of Pittsburgh, has examined the brain tissue of deceased NFL players Mike Webster, Terry Long, and Andre Waters. All three subjects of Dr. Omalu’s studies suffered several concussions during their respective NFL careers. Before their premature deaths, Webster, Long, and Waters presented clinical symptoms of sharply deteriorated cognitive function and psychiatric symptoms such as paranoia, panic attacks, and major depression.  ("It's Just a Concussion" The National Football League's Denial of a Casual Link Between Multiple Concussions and a Later-Life Congnitive Decline)

Bradshaw has been vocal in his support to get financial help for former players (from the Players Union in its negotiations with NFL owners) that struggle with the long-term effects of those injuries.

I can only wonder if there is a relationship between Bradshaw's injuries, depression, and lack of social life, and by transference, whether Roethlisberger suffers from the same thing.  Only in this case, whether Roethlisberger has crossed the legal line.

Four Super Bowls clearly aren't enough to impress women when you're clinically depressed and thus seem insecure about your accomplishments (four Super Bowls people, yet that fact doesn't matter when the proper function of your brain has been altered).

I then have no reason to believe that Roethlisberger could not possibly face the same problems, or that Roethlisberger is above it all.


I could be wrong, but the case is important enough to demand an answer

I should add that this article is not to assert absolute certainty that Roethlisberger is mentally ill, but merely to raise what is clearly a valid question. 

The science proves that concussions cause depression and depression can lead to erratic and sometimes illegal behavior.

Moreover, we do know that Roethslisberger has suffered several concussions, and so, it could potentially follow that those concussions have caused him to skirt the law.

Clearly, it is possible that Big Ben could be clinically depressed as a result of concussions and to be quite laconic in conjecture, he simply has got no game.

My problem has been that NFL fans have generally been willing to err on the side of Roethlisberger's rights, whereas, the same people were willing to err on the side of condemning other players for erratic behavior.

There could be a wide variety of reasons for that double standard, but it is an undeniable fact that the punishments handed down by the NFL and the ire from NFL fans has generally favored white players and not black players.

Thus, I have implored the question: if not race, then what is your reason?   Yet honestly, I don't think that there is a good reason.  But, try me.

When it comes to a white quarterback, he's innocent until proven guilty.  In the case of Pacman Jones, it is a privilege to play in the NFL, not a right.



"It's Just a Concussion" The National Football League's Denial of a Casual Link Between Multiple Concussions and a Later-Life Congnitive Decline:

Concussions cause depression:

New York Times article on the NFL, Roethslisberger, and policies on concussions:

USA Today Article from 2004:

Bradshaw on topic of injuries in regards to Kevin Everett:

Bradshaw singing, "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry":

Example of Double-Standard in media coverage:

--Pete Prisco on Ben Roethlisberger, "innocent until proven guilty";nfl

--Pete Prisco on Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, quoting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, "it is a privilege to represent the NFL, not a right";pageContainer

Mental Illness vs. Criminal Insanity:

“Inventing Modern Football,“ American Heritage Magazine, 1988

Open Letter to Ben Roethlisberger: