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Doctors weigh in on Steelers QB Roethlisberger's absence

| Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

Count a former Steelers team physician and one of the country's top neurosurgeons as not being surprised that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger developed some delayed symptoms from a concussion he sustained last week.

Dr. Julian E. Bailes said Monday it is not unusual for a person to develop symptoms for a concussion days after the injury occurred. Bailes is a professor and chairman of the West Virginia University School of Medicine who recently testified before a House Judiciary Committee on the protection and care for traumatic brain injuries in football.

"They can develop symptoms later — particularly headaches, memory problems, other issues — so delayed or later development of symptoms is not unusual as apparently what happened to Ben Roethlisberger this past weekend," said Bailes, the Steelers' neurosurgeon throughout the 1990s.

Roethlisberger incurred exercise-induced headaches during the days leading up to Sunday night's game against Baltimore. Team neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon would not clear Roethlisberger to play, and the team decided Saturday to sit their franchise quarterback for the key AFC North game despite Roethlisberger practicing the entire week. Maroon was not available for comment yesterday, and coach Mike Tomlin likely will update Roethlisberger's condition today at his weekly news conference.

Bailes has studied the effects of football concussions since 2000 when he set up the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He recently was asked to serve on the new committee formed by the NFL Players Association to study the long-term effects of head injuries in football. He said Roethlisberger's symptoms can last longer than just one week.

"Absolutely they can," Bailes said.

Tomlin said after Sunday's overtime loss to Baltimore that he doesn't expect Roethlisberger's symptoms to linger past this week.

"Not at this point, but we'll proceed appropriately," Tomlin said.

Teams have become more cautious when dealing with concussions.

This year, Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook and Washington running back Clinton Portis have been sidelined multiple weeks because of concussion-like symptoms. This past weekend, Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner was a last-second scratch because of a concussion he suffered the previous week.

"They're medical decisions and they're very important," said former NFL coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. "It's not a swollen ankle and it's not about how important the game is. It's about the health and well-being of an athlete."

Former Steelers safety Mike Logan said he sustained two concussions during his 10-year NFL career and always took extreme precautions.

"I really didn't have any lingering effects, but I knew I wasn't right," Logan said. "When it comes to dealing with the brain, you better take it seriously."

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