Posted on April 23, 2010 · Posted in Brain Injury

Make no mistake about it, the National Football League’s punishment this week of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was really an intervention.

Roethlisberger was not only suspended without pay for six games for an incident in which he had sex with an intoxicated 20-year-old student in a bar bathroom, he was also ordered to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to help the quarterback, who was accused of – but not criminally charged —  with committing a sexual assault in the Georgia bar incident. Goodell flat out asked Roethlisberger, once a hero who lead his team to two Super Bowl wins, to help himself and turn his life around.

“Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Roethlisberger.

“I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you,” the commissioner said. “My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and the demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a detailed story on what kinds of  tests Roethlisberger faces to determine to what degree his violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy can be blamed on psychological, behavioral or neuropsychological disorders.

Then, a plan for treatment and intervention must be devised.

If anyone is a candidate for having neuropsychological problems, it’s Roethlisberger. A foolish daredevil who distains helmets, he was almost killed in a motorcycle accident several years ago when he was thrown and hit his head. As a Steeler, he sustained four concussions. That’s all a recipe for behavioral issues.

The quarterback won’t be able to play ball until he completes his evaluation and therapy.

The evaluation will be done by medical professionals hired by the NFL. The process is likely to begin with a one or two-hour interview. As Roethlisberger talks about his problems in the past, doctors will be paying close attention to his actions and demeanor.

Neuropsychological testing will hopefully be part of the NFL evaluation, to determine if the quarterback’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls judgment and impulse control, was damaged from his motorcycle accident and football concussions, according to the Post-Gazette.

The evaluation will also determine if Roethlisberger has an alcohol or drug addiction.

Finally, the doctor in charge of the evaluation will have to study all the information and suggest treatment, it it’s deemed necessary. That could mean treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy or anger management.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447