David Epstein of Sports Illustrated talked to Dr. Jordan Grafman, a neuropsychologist who specializes in frontal lobes, the part of the brain that controls "judgment, inhibition and social behavior." So what does the good doctor say?
"A person with damage might not read the intentions of a woman at a bar very well, for example," Grafman says. "They might succumb to more primitive urges instead of saying, 'I shouldn't do this because it affects my career.'"
Sound like anyone we know?
The other factor that points to all of this potentially being linked to frontal-lobe damage is Roethlisberger's reported history of doing and saying wildly inappropriate things. Examples of this are not scarce. According to Grafman, it's a common symptom of those who have suffered that particular type of brain injury. Their ability to know when things are appropriate and when they're not is eroded.
And again, there's the other possibility -- that Roethlisberger's simply a meathead with a grand sense of entitlement that might accompany truckloads of cash and the hero status we assign to Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Epstein doesn't ignore that possibility, either.
It's an unanswerable question. At least it is for me, you, and everyone else who hasn't known Ben Roethlisberger since he was an innocent, happy-go-lucky, young quarterback in Findlay, Ohio (if he indeed ever was that). And even if you have witnessed his behavior changing, you might not know why it's changed.
We'll never know definitively. And that's fine with me, because for one thing, I don't feel like I should know the man's personal medical history that intimately. And more importantly, no matter the reasons behind it, the behavior is the behavior, and Roethlisberger still has to be accountable for it, and still has the responsibility to change it.