To: Coach Bill Cowher, Pittsburgh Steelers
From: Arthur Pincus, FanNation.com
This is more serious than we usually get in FanNation but we think this is too important for jokes. It's time for you to sit Ben Roethlisberger down and keep him out for the rest of the season. Put him in street clothes, give him a clipboard and give him time to recover from his two concussions in four months. There are no doctors here but we've paid enough attention to concussions in sports over the years to know that this is something that requires your full attention. If you don't win the Super Bowl again this season, you don't win it. You're 2-5 in case you hadn't noticed.
Bill, think of these names: Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Stan Humphries. They were all NFL quarterbacks, all Super Bowl QBs, who had their careers end prematurely because of repeated concussions. Bill, you remember this name: Al Toon, wide receiver New York Jets, college long jump champion; grace, speed and strength on the field. He retired early with the effects and the aftereffects of concussions. Here's the thing, when he retired, the Jets said he'd had five concussions, he believed it could have been as many as nine. Checking around the last few days, the number of Al Toon's concussions is now determined to be as high as 12.
Long after he retired Toon had this to say to The New York Times: "Typically I played the next week. It didn't feel like I was doing something detrimental in the long term. But it took less and less of a blow to create the same amount of impact."
Toon said that for four years after he retired he had trouble remembering information and focusing on events around him.
"It was kind of a dark and gloomy low point."
Bill, Ben suffered a concussion when he took that ill-fated ride on his motorcycle last June. We all know he almost died from loss of blood, that he broke bones all over his face. But what stays with him is the concussion he suffered when he hit that windshield. Then in training camp he had to have his appendix removed and he was back starting a game 15 days later.
So Ben heals fast. So Ben has a high threshold for pain. So Ben can handle the discomfort that a concussion causes, at least it seems you and he think that is so. But ask some former athletes about their concussions. Ask some guys who had multiple concussions how easy it was to get the next one. You can spend 30 seconds on the Internet and get all the data you need.
Ben got the concussion against the Atlanta Falcons on October 22, four months and two weeks after his first one. We believe that should have ended his season right there. But he came back on October 29 against the Raiders. He's a pro, he's an athlete, he's tough, and he played horribly. It's enough, Bill.
Bill, read these words from hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, whose career was ended by concussions. This is from his book "Companions in Courage."
"The one that changed my life happened in October 1996 when I was playing with the Buffalo Sabres...This concussion left me emotionally drained. My confidence, my courage, and my will to persevere diminished. At times I doubted that I would ever recover.
"Just a week later, I played against Montreal. I remember skating during the warmup and seeing stars and beams of little light particles and feeling tentative. I wasn't myself. I felt very strange and scared and wondered out loud to myself what I was doing out there.
"The doctors said I was fine and that I should be able to play. My body was obviously giving me small hints that something wasn't right; however, I was determined to make it right."
But Pat couldn't make it right and soon after he broke down in front of his teammates following a game against the Flyers. The next day, he went to practice and talked with his coach Ted Nolan.
"I looked at him for a long time, trying to compose myself, then I told him something was wrong and that I didn't have the enthusiasm and drive of a professional athlete and a captain. When I admitted how scared I felt...I totally lost it. He looked at me and told me that I needed help. What a sense of relief that simple observation gave me."
Pat sat out the rest of that season and returned with medical clearance the following year to play for the Rangers. But late in the season he suffered his final concussion when he bumped into a teammate at center ice and he never played again.
There's no way to know if the concussions Ben has suffered are as serious as those suffered by Aikman, Young, Humphries, Toon or LaFontaine. But Bill, please do for Ben Roethlisberger what Ted Nolan did for Pat LaFontaine. You're a decent and smart guy. Sit him down. Sit him down now.