Big Ben and the Odd Word Fight Surrounding Broken Bones

When is a broken bone not really broken? We explain

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended by the NFL for four games in connection with sexual assault allegations. It was the second time in a year the QB faced such allegations. The charges were dropped but the league put him through "professional behavioral evaluation" and counseling.

    So yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Steelers QB and barhopper extraordinaire Ben Roethlisberger broke his foot in the team’s overtime win against Buffalo last Sunday. Now, this sounds incredibly scary and horrible. It makes you picture a foot that been all mangled and bruised and shattered until it feels like a bag full of eggshells.

    Ah, but the Steelers don’t quite agree with the Gazette. While the paper reported that the fifth metatarsal bone or the outside metatarsal on Roethlisberger's right foot is broken, the team preferred to refer to the injury as a sprain:

     

    Ben's current injury is an aggravation of an old injury where scar tissue is present.

    This is, oddly, not the first time a doctor and a team and a player and the media have been in dispute over what constitutes a broken bone or body part. Earlier this year, the Vikings said Brett Favre had fractured his ankle in two places, while a doctor said the injury was nothing more than a glorified ankle sprain. You wouldn’t think this would be something people could disagree on. You look at an x-ray, you see a space in the middle of what should be an intact bone, and you can call it broken. But no! NFL injuries don’t work that way. Favre has played all year on his glorified sprain, and Big Ben is also slated to start against Baltimore for first place in the AFC North on Sunday Night. I asked the esteemed Mike Tunison, who is a Steeler nutcase, if the injury appeared to hamper Big Ben:

    “Not significantly. He has one amazing 18-yard scramble for a first down even after the injury occurred. A lot of the struggles in the second half can be attributed to mindless penalties and overall poor line play.”

    So the bone is broken, but Big Ben seems fully capable in spite of it. This is why, from now on, I do not approve of media or PR people referring to a bone as “broken” unless it’s truly scary injury that involves the player wearing an itchy cast with many signatures on it and being laid up for at least four to six weeks. Like when Reggie Bush broke his leg? THAT was a broken bone. But a hairline fracture of the pinky toe? NOT BROKEN. Totally goes in the “glorified sprain” pile.

    This way, you don’t have to see the word “broken” and have a heart attack if the player’s injury really isn’t that bad. I