Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger is smart to consider CTE

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Ben Roethlisberger
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Ben Roethlisberger /

Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, has stated that he’s taking long term health into consideration when thinking of retirement after the 2017 season.

“I’ve been blessed to do this a long time. I think it’s just seeing my kids growing up, and in the offseason I love getting to spend time with them, and then I come here and football season just has to take up so much of your time. Even when you get home, I try my best to turn it off when I walk in the front door. I think I do a pretty good job of that but it still consumes you in a way,” Roethlisberger told the media at training camp.

“Just all those things combined — being healthy, being able to play catch with my kids. I feel good mentally, I know this new study that came out that 90 percent [of NFL] players’ brains who were studied had CTE.

“There’s a lot of scary things, and I think my wife would be OK if I hung it up, too. But I still love the guys, I still love the game, so it was right for me to come back and give it everything I have this year.”

Honestly, Ben Roethlisberger has proven to be one of the smartest players in the sport with these comments. While some refuse to accept the long-term affects of playing a contact sport, Ben is being mature enough to think of his family before himself.

Both families as well. His decision to return this season, considering all the talent the Steelers have in place, wasn’t for him. He knew that if this team was going to go places he needed to be a part of the mix. So, he took his chances and returned for another season.

Now, he can focus on the real reason to retire. He’s paid his dues to this organization, and no matter how this season turns out, he’ll retire as the greatest Steelers quarterback to ever play. Which means it’s now time to think long-term.

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For those who don’t know, CTE is defined as such, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation:

"Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. In CTE, a protein called Tau forms clumps that slowly spread throughout the brain, killing brain cells. CTE has been seen in people as young as 17, but symptoms do not generally begin appearing until years after the onset of head impacts.Early symptoms of CTE usually appear in a patient’s late 20s or 30s, and affect a patient’s mood and behavior. Some common changes seen include impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and paranoia.As the disease progresses, some patients may experience problems with thinking and memory, including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and eventually progressive dementia. Cognitive symptoms tend to appear later than mood and behavioral symptoms, and generally first appear in a patient’s 40s or 50s. Patients may exhibit one or both symptom clusters. In some cases, symptoms worsen with time (even if the patient suffers no additional head impacts). In other cases, symptoms may be stable for years before worsening."

This doesn’t guarantee that any football player has CTE. However, less than a week ago, a medical journal called JAMA released a study where 110 out of 111 donated brains of former NFL players were diagnosed with CTE. That’s a terrifying number for someone who’s been hit more times than he can count.

For Roethlisberger, he’s no stranger to being hit. As someone who’s been sacked 456 times and counting, Ben knows that his body and head have taken a beating for the last 13 seasons.

No Steelers fan wants to see Big Ben hang his cleats for the last time. With everything positive going on in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to imagine playing without number seven. But fans do genuinely care about players’ health, and if Ben wants to live a successful life after football, he’s smart to consider the consequences of playing it.

CTE isn’t something to brush off. It’s threatened the lives of hundreds of athletes before, and it’s going to continue to until a cure is found. So, as much as Roethlisberger loves being on the field, and as much as we love seeing him. Making sure he’s around to see his children grow is much more important, especially at this stage in his life.

If Ben wants to retire, let him. He’s paid his dues, taken the Steelers to promise land, and has won the hearts of fans along the way. At 35-years-old, you can’t expect much more from him.

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Football isn’t his number one concern anymore. Now, it’s time for this future Hall of Famer to think life after sports.

Step one – making sure he’s healthy long enough to experience it.