On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review pointed out a possibility about which plenty of fans have been buzzing.
What if the behavioral evaluation of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reveals that his lapses in judgment and/or alleged sexual misconduct arise from a critical mass of concussions?
“It’s conceivable to think that there is a possibility that those
concussions have led to some behavioral issues,” forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht told Carl Prine of the Tribune-Review. “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.”
If a link is found, the league surely will say nothing about it, citing medical privacy laws. “We do not disclose any other details relating to a specific
individual,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Tribune-Review. “Yes, medical professionals perform the
evaluation. Yes, we have access to the findings and recommendations.”
But Roethlisberger’s camp would have every incentive to disregard such protections and get the truth out, in the hopes of rehabilitating an image that already may be irreparably damaged. Though some will perceive such a diagnosis as belated excuse-making, the fact that doctors hired by the NFL would reach such a conclusion (if they indeed do) would be significant, and unprecedented.
And then things could get very dicey for the league. Other players who misbehave may try to point to chronic concussions, finding their own experts who may be inclined to reach whatever conclusion the person paying them wants — especially if the fee for services rendered includes getting their names in the paper. Meanwhile, those in Congress who have an ax to grind regarding the NFL could use the actual or perceived link between concussions and the contemporaneous creation of potential sexual predators as fodder for a political attack on the game.
Thus, much is riding on the outcome of Roethlisberger’s behavioral evaluation. Both for him and the entire league.