Ben Roethlisberger used the word "scary" when he saw several of the Steelers team doctors hovering over him on the field and he couldn't feel them sticking a pin in his numb arms two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns. And for good reason.
Roethlisberger suffered more than what was diagnosed as a concussion.
The Post-Gazette has learned that Roethlisberger actually sustained a spinal cord concussion after he was sandwiched on a hit by two Browns defenders and appeared to hit the back of his head on the Heinz Field surface -- the same type of injury that caused former quarterback Tommy Maddox to temporarily lose movement in his arms and legs in a 2002 game in Tennessee.
It was the reason the Steelers medical personnel removed Roethlisberger's facemask and had him placed on a spinal board when they carted him from the field. Roethlisberger was taken to Presbyterian Hospital, though he quickly regained the feeling in his arms and didn't even remain overnight for observation. He never lost sensation in his legs.
Roethlisberger passed all the necessary follow-up tests, including the IMPACT test administered to players with concussion-like injuries, and played one of his most efficient games of the season in Sunday's 35-24 playoff victory against the San Diego Chargers. Roethlisberger passed for 181 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against the Chargers
According to several medical websites, a spinal cord concussion can be caused by a sudden and violent jolt and result in neurological deficits. Symptons, though, usually disappear in less than a day, sometimes a few hours, depending on the severity of the concussion.
Earlier this season, Baltimore Ravens safety Dawan Landry sustained a spinal cord concussion in a Sept. 21 game against Cleveland when the crown of his helmet struck the knee of running back Jamal Lewis. He didn't play the rest of the season and was eventually placed on injured reserve.
Maddox was injured in a Nov. 18, 2002 game against the Tennessee Titans when he was hit by linebacker Keith Bullock on a play that seemed relatively harmless. He was taken to a Nashville, Tenn., hospital and remained overnight in a trauma unit with what was diagnosed as a spinal cord concussion.
But, Maddox's brain function returned to a normal within 48 hours and, despite losing all feeling in his hands and legs, did not suffer any damage to his spinal cord. After sitting out two games, he returned to start the final six games of the season, including two playoff games.