Last month, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review floated the possibility that Ben Roethlisberger’s history of head injuries could be influencing his recent behavior. David Epstein of SI.com hones in on the possible connection between one specific trauma — the 2006 motorcycle accident — and Roethlisberger’s conduct.
A neuropsychologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes told Epstein that a link exists between injuries to the frontal lobe and inappropriate behaviors. “A person with damage might not read the intentions of a woman
at a bar very well, for example,” Dr. Jordan Grafman says. “They might succumb to
more primitive urges instead of saying, ‘I shouldn’t do this because it
affects my career.’”
Epstein provides a couple of specific examples suggesting that Roethlisberger’s ability to control his impulses could be impaired. Per Epstein, Roethlisberger once hit on a married woman in the presence of her husband, asking her out on a date. Roethlisberger also reportedly said aloud to a friend, “I didn’t know you liked fat chicks” — in the presence of the woman.
At this point, it’s unknown whether a link exists in Roethlisberger’s case. Though he has likely suffered multiple concussions while playing football, driving into the side of a Chrysler without a helmet surely presented an injury far worse than anything he has endured on a football field. The challenge in this regard would be to determine whether there’s evidence that Roethlisberger changed after the motorcycle accident. If he had a habit of saying inappropriate things before the accident, the explanation could be concussions suffered before 2006 while playing football.
Or it could be that he’s simply a jerk, and that the addition of money and fame made him even worse.
The ultimate proof could come from whether he is capable of changing. If his conduct flows from damage to the frontal lobe of his brain, he won’t be able to control himself. So, basically, his ability to improve his behavior would be proof that there’s really no excuse for the things he said and did in the past, allegedly or otherwise.