Doctor: Ben Roethlisberger at risk for nerve damage


The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger at a most unfortunate time in their schedule. The starting quarterback missed Sunday night's 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and remains a huge question mark to play when the teams meet again two weeks from now.

A four-part series on player health and safety with reporter Andrea Kremer aired Tuesday through Friday on NFL Network:

Tuesday: Football's safety issues
Wednesday: Virginia Tech's helmet technology, The "Hit System"
Thursday: Inside Darrelle Revis' rehab
Friday: The lack of common safety standards in youth football

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Roethlisberger is one of the game's grittiest performers, often playing through pain, but the shoulder and first rib injuries he suffered against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10 are a different beast.

SI's Peter King wrote Monday that "anyone forecasting a week for him to return is guessing." Dr. Clark Fuller, the director of Thoracic Surgery at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., told King that a premature return would put Big Ben at risk of nerve damage along with previously reported threats to the aorta.

"This is not about being a tough guy," said Fuller, who added that a quarterback's typical throwing motion might prevent a rib injury from healing. "Playing football with a dislocated first rib would put you at severe risk. There are many things to be concerned about, including destroying the nerves in the arm."

Fuller hasn't inspected Roethlisberger's injury but estimated the quarterback would miss a minimum of four weeks and hoped the Steelers wouldn't push him back too soon -- Ravens or not.

"I do remember their coach, Mike Tomlin, not allowing that safety (Ryan Clark) to play in altitude in Denver because of his sickle-cell disease," Fuller said. "That is a good sign, to me. I believe he won't risk the health of Roethlisberger."

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.