View Full Version : Roethlisberger ready to go home

06-15-2006, 07:28 AM
Roethlisberger ready to go home
Thursday, June 15, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, David Templeton and Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Doctors at Mercy Hospital said yesterday that Ben Roethlisberger was "up and out of bed," and a source who visited him said the injured Steelers quarterback will be discharged today.

Mr. Roethlisberger remained in fair condition last night, two days after he was involved in a motorcycle accident that caused numerous facial and head injuries.

During a news briefing just after 5 p.m., Dr. Larry M. Jones, chief of the Division of Multisystem Trauma at Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh, said that a second brain scan confirmed previous findings that Mr. Roethlisberger had suffered no brain injury.

Doctors said Mr. Roethlisberger's jaws are not wired shut and he is on a soft-food diet, eating yogurt and pudding, and will not "suffer nutritional consequences of a liquid diet," such as significant weight loss.

While there is no timetable for his recovery, Steelers officials remain hopeful that their starting quarterback will be able to play in the team's season opener Sept. 7 against the Miami Dolphins.

Mr. Roethlisberger broke portions of his upper and lower jaw, his nose and the orbital bone underneath his eye, lost and damaged some teeth, and suffered a mild concussion when the motorcycle he was operating slammed into the side of a car on Second Avenue at the 10th Street Bridge intersection Monday morning.

He has severe bruising and swelling in his face and neck area, but he has spoken -- albeit softly and briefly -- to family members and visitors.

Dr. Daniel W. Pituch, chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Mercy, who was directly involved with the surgery Monday, said that the surgical team used "internal fixation technology," which involves the placement of small titanium plates and screws onto the surface of the broken bones in Mr. Roethlisberger's jaws and face. The plates are 11/2 to 2 inches long and resemble hair barrettes.

The titanium plates were carefully bent to match the contours of the facial bones, Dr. Pituch said.

"Once I had the bones put back together the way [they] needed to be, I kept [them] in that place by putting the screws in there," Dr. Pituch said. "Small holes were drilled into the bones and small screws were carefully placed into these holes.

"This technology allows us to have a more predictable outcome that usually does not require any additional major reconstructive procedures."

The plates, he said, help the cracked and broken bones fuse back together. Though only needed for about six weeks, it is unlikely that they would be removed.

Because the titanium plates are applied flat to the bone and screwed into place, no visible signs of their presence will be evident once the injuries heal.

While the doctors at Mercy Hospital refused to discuss the surgery in any further detail, Dr. Ira D. Papel, president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, said he wouldn't be surprised to see Mr. Roethlisberger exercising within two weeks.

Dr. Papel said that the old-fashioned method of repairing a broken jaw -- by wiring the bones into place to ensure that they did not move -- normally required a six-week healing process.

Based on accounts he's read about Mr. Roethlisberger's injuries and treatment, he said, that process should be shortened considerably.

"That's what it's all about -- stabilizing the bones in the right position," he said.

Dr. Papel said surgeons would have had other problems to resolve Monday during seven hours of surgery.

He said Mr. Roethlisberger had significant nasal fractures that also would have had to be realigned and stabilized with splints to prevent future breathing problems. And it is likely that he has scarring inside his mouth from surgical procedures to repair the upper and lower jaws. He also could have surgical scars under his chin.

While it's not a long-term health concern, facial scarring will become a cosmetic issue for the 24-year-old football star.

"You usually have to wait a year for the scarring to settle down. Then there are ways we can help the scars blend into the surrounding area," Dr. Papel said. "Once a scar, always a scar, but we can minimize it and fit it into the natural lines."

Meanwhile, well-wishes continued to pour in to Mr. Roethlisberger and his family yesterday.

The second-guessing of riding a motorcycle without a helmet also continued.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society issued a statement urging the state Legislature to reinstate a more restrictive motorcycle helmet law.

The society has "long advocated for the requirement to wear a helmet while motorcycling," said Dr. Mark Piasio, the group's president and an orthopedic surgeon.

"Louisiana legislators repealed their motorcycle [helmet] law in 1999, but then re-enacted it in 2004," he said. "For the good of our patients and our health system, Pennsylvania legislators should wake up and do the same."

A former NFL quarterback from Western Pennsylvania also weighed in on the issue.

Monongahela native Joe Montana, a four-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, said Mr. Roethlisberger should have worn a helmet or considered staying off motorcycles.

"It's just too young to take a chance to ruin a career," Mr. Montana said in a telephone interview. "You could be the safest driver in the world, but everybody knows accidents aren't always your fault.

"Why wouldn't you try to take care of yourself? That's what I just don't understand."