Ben Roethlisberger is delighted to have removed himself from a regulation NFL football game. Yes, that Ben Roethlisberger. The same Ben Roethlisberger who finished a game on a torn meniscus, played in a playoff game just six days after suffering a shoulder injury and refused to bow out of a contest in which Haloti Ngata crowbarred his schnoz.
In a 2015 contest against Seattle, Roethlisberger was hit so hard that his eyeballs temporarily stopped working. Naturally, Roethlisberger was alarmed, which ultimately led his to self-removal from said game, a move that Roethlisberger says he is “proud of,” per Sport Illustrated’s Peter King.
This move represents unequivocal progress in the NFL, a league in which tough guy points serve as the penultimate badge of honor. However, the fact that star players have to verbalize their satisfaction in their decision-making acumen paints a very clear picture: the NFL’s concussion issue is every bit as philosophical as it is tangible.
To provide an example: Gisele Bündchen accidentally opened an enormous can of worms by revealing that her husband, modern-day GOAT and Super Bowl champ Tom Brady, sustained a concussion last season.
Before we unpack this controversy, there a few things to consider. Gisele is not a neurologist, but she has proven to be somewhat outspoken when it comes to Brady and the Patriots, so my guess is that a) Tom Brady complained of headaches or just seemed generally aloof, leading her to assume he had a concussion or b) Tom Brady outwardly confessed to her that he had suffered a concussion. Honestly, which of those seems more likely?
But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend it’s the second one. Does this mean that the Patriots, easily the NFL’s most divisive franchise, fudged injury reports to hide Brady’s injuries? If so, SAD! But probably not.
The more likely outcome is that Brady, if he actually sustained a concussion, simply didn’t report his symptoms to medical personnel, which is something that numerous Hall of Fame caliber players, including Roethlisberger, have admitted to doing in the past. This, as you can probably imagine, is exceedingly difficult for the NFL to police, and as such, remains a major hurdle in their goal to make football safer.
You see, Roethlisberger admission, honorable though it may be, is an outlier, rather than the norm. For every Patrick Willis or Calvin Johnson who retire early with their brains intact, it seems like their are dozens of Junior Seau’s, who die tragically, or Tony Dorsett’s, who struggle with memory loss or other long-term neurological defects.
Overall, it’s awesome that Roethlisberger willingly removed himself from a game in order to safeguard his brain. At 35, Roethlisberger is a young man in any vocation except for football, which makes it clear that he took his retirement proposal seriously this offseason.
With that said, sitting out a game or two isn’t going to negatively impact Roethlisberger’s legacy or financial portfolio—other guys might not be so lucky, which makes ushering in some sort of fundamental paradigm shift in individual players’ mentalities an arduous task.