Mini Series Documents Ben Roethlisberger’s Recovery from Surgery


Joe Sargent/Getty Images Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Until recently Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t revealed specifics about the nature of the elbow injury that sidelined him for most of last season. In a new documentary mini series titled ‘Bigger Than Ben’ (part one released today, WATCH BELOW), Roethlisberger comes clean about the exact nature of the injury he suffered.

“I always had a little bit of pain on a specific spot on my arm. Every time my arm hurt it was one spot,” relates Roethlisberger while taking about the first half of last year’s game vs. the Seattle Seahawks. “I remember one of the throws I felt a different kind of pain. It was in the same spot but it was actually shooting down my arm for the first time…. It just felt like this weird shooting pain.”

It was almost like something tore, recalls Roethlisberger.

Ben’s wife Ashley Roethlisberger also talks about what she saw watching the game on television.

“I think honestly at first when he grabbed his arm it didn’t make me worry that he actually injured his arm,” says Ashley. “To me at first it signified, he’s really hurting. And I think that made me sick to my stomach because I knew he wasn’t going to stop. I knew he was going to keep going and I could see how bad it was hurting.”

Roethlisberger goes on to describe the moment the injury occurred.

Ben Roethlisberger: ‘The most excruciating pains I have felt’

“I threw a deep ball down the right sideline, I think it was to JuJu [Smith-Schuster], and on that particular throw was one of the most excruciating pains I have felt, so much so that I had to grab my arm because it felt like something had ripped off my bone.”

The first person Roethlisberger talked to when he got to the sideline was Dr. Jim Bradley.

“I remember him telling me, ‘Ben, I can’t let you back in the game,’ recalls Roethlisberger. “I don’t know that he has ever told me that…. He said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on in there and I don’t like it so I can’t let you go back in.’”

“I said ‘Ben, you’re not going back in. You’re out of this game,’ And I never say that,” noted Bradley. “He’s played in games where—the Cincinnati game he couldn’t lift his arm above his head—he won a playoff game.”

When Roethlisberger called his wife Ashley at halftime she knew something was seriously wrong, because “he never calls me during halftime when he’s playing,” she said.

Immediately after the game Roethlisberger went for an MRI and Dr. Bradley called Ben and Ashley with the bad news. Ashley relates Dr. Bradley saying: “I’m sorry Ben, you ripped your flexors right off the bone.”

“You have five flexor tendons that come from each finger that attach to one spot in your elbow,” explains Roethlisberger. “A long time ago—13, 14, 15 years ago—I got a real small vertical tear in one of them…. That’s the pain I’ve had for the longest time. And this time three of the five came clean off the bone.”

Two Options for Ben Roethlisberger: Surgery or Retire

Dr. Bradley told Roethlisberger he had two options. One option was to do nothing—and retire from the NFL. But if he wanted to play football again, Dr. Bradley said he would have to have surgery to try to address what he described as a “career-threatening” injury.

Of course, we know what Roethlisberger chose to do, and by all accounts his recovery has proceeded swimmingly. Never mind that his delivery looks a little ‘different,’ in the words of one longtime Steelers beat writer. Steelers tight end Vance McDonald insists that Roethlisberger is ‘all the way back.’ And the other day, Roethlisberger put on a veritable ‘throwing clinic’ during practice at Heinz Field.

WATCH part one of ‘Bigger Than Ben’ below.

Part one also addresses the sudden death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake in August of last year. Roethlisberger says he was in shock when he heard about Drake’s death, and notes there was a “heavy, heavy cloud” over the team in the wake of his passing.

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