Big Ben in serious condition after motorcycle accident

Updated: June 13, 2006, 3:59 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers star Ben Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl championship, broke his jaw and nose in a motorcycle crash Monday in which he was not wearing a helmet.

Clayton's take
 John Clayton
The reason the Steelers and most teams don't put specific language into contracts about off-the-field accidents is that they don't feel it's necessary. The NFL Management Council has advised teams to use the phrasing "for any reason" in regards to a player who defaults on his contract because of an injury suffered outside of football.

Roethlisberger's accident is a good reason why.

To read more of John Clayton's Quick Hits, click here. Insider

Roethlisberger remained in serious but stable condition after seven hours of surgery that ended at approximately 9 p.m. ET, according to Dr. Daniel Pituch, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Mercy Hospital.

"He suffered multiple facial fractures," Pituch said at a news conference. "All of the fractures were successfully repaired. His brain, spine, chest and abdomen appear to be without serious injury. And there are no other confirmed injuries at this time."

The doctors declined to release further information at the family's request.

ESPN.com's John Clayton has confirmed that Roethlisberger also suffered a 9-inch laceration to the back of his head, has lost or chipped a number of teeth and has minor injuries to his knees from hitting the pavement.

A broken jaw normally takes seven weeks to heal. It is not known how long it will take for the other injuries to heal. Pittsburgh's training camp begins in late July.

"He was talking to me before he left for the operating room," Dr. Larry Jones, chief of trauma at Mercy Hospital, said before the operation. "He's coherent. He's making sense. He knows what happened. He knows where he is. From that standpoint, he's very stable."

Ben Roethlisberger's wrecked bike
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicRoethlisberger was riding this motorcycle when he collided with an automobile in Pittsburgh on Monday morning.

Roethlisberger's stepmother, Brenda, was crying as she arrived at the hospital. Roethlisberger's father and sister were also at the hospital.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher cut short his vacation to return to Pittsburgh, and arrived at the hospital shortly after 9 p.m. ET.

Steelers president Art Rooney said the team was "encouraged by the early reports from the medical team" at the hospital.

"I am sure Ben knows that we are praying for his complete recovery," he said.

Roethlisberger, 24, was not wearing a helmet, police said. He has said he likes to ride without one, a habit that once prompted a lecture from Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher.

Roethlisberger's contract does not have a specific clause regarding riding a motorcycle, Clayton confirmed.

Roethlisberger was between radio interviews and on his black 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa -- a large, racing-style bike -- and heading toward an intersection on the edge of downtown. A silver Chrysler New Yorker traveling in the opposite direction took a left turn and collided with the motorcycle, and Roethlisberger was thrown, police said.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger flew into the Chrysler's windshield and then hit the ground head first. Blood pooled around him on the pavement, the paper said.

Pennsylvania's Helmet Law
(Effective Sept. 4, 2003)
Pennsylvania's 35-year-old law requiring helmets to be worn was amended in 2003 to make helmets optional under certain circumstances.

According to the amended law, a motorcyclist will no longer be required to wear a helmet if the rider is:

• A person 21 years of age or older who has been licensed to operate a motorcycle for not less than two full calendar years.

• A person 21 years of age or older who has completed a motorcycle rider safety course approved by the department or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

• A passenger 21 years of age or older if the motorcycle driver meets one of the qualifications for not wearing a helmet.

The car involved in the accident was driven by a woman identified in published reports Tuesday as Martha Fleishman, 62, of Pittsburgh. The car was registered in Maine, where she has a summer home, police said. No charges were filed.

"She really feels terrible about the whole thing, and we certainly wish him a speedy recovery," said her husband, Martin Fleishman.

He declined to comment on his wife's condition, except to say, "She's doing as best as she can."

Witness Sandra Ford was waiting at a bus stop when she said she saw the motorcycle approach. Seconds later, she said she heard a crash, saw the motorcyclist in the air and ran toward the crash scene.

"He wasn't moving and I was afraid that he had died. ... He wasn't really speaking. He seemed dazed but he was resisting the effort to make him stay down," said Ford, who didn't realize the motorcyclist was Roethlisberger.

Police spokesman Lt. Kevin Kraus said police and homicide units were investigating the crash, something standard when there is an accident with critical injuries. Kraus would give no details on the extent of Roethlisberger's injuries or if anyone else was injured.

The accident occurred on Second Avenue near the intersection of 10th Street in Pittsburgh, around 11:30 a.m. The route is one often taken in traveling to the Steelers' facility in the Southside section of the city.

Several teammates, including backup quarterback Charlie Batch, linebacker Joey Porter and safety Mike Logan, arrived at the hospital emergency room but did not comment.

The car, which had damage to the front passenger fender, was removed and Roethlisberger's bike was loaded onto a flatbed truck. Police were detouring traffic around the crash scene as onlookers and media gathered.

One of his agents, Ryan Tollner, was en route to Pittsburgh for what was supposed to be a pre-planned trip and was to arrive later Monday.

Ben Roethlisberger crash site
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicPaint outlines puddles of oil and blood on the street where Roethlisberger collided with an automobile while riding a motorcycle on Monday.
In only his second year in the NFL, Roethlisberger became the youngest quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl championship. He was 23 when he did it last February.

In May 2005, Cowher warned him about safe riding after Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was injured in a motorcycle accident. Winslow tore knee ligaments and was lost for the season.

Roethlisberger has said in the past that he prefers not to wear a helmet when riding his motorcycle. Roethlisberger has pointed out Pennsylvania's 35-year-old state law requiring helmets to be worn was amended in September 2003 to make helmets optional.

"He talked about being a risk-taker and I'm not really a risk-taker. I'm pretty conservative and laid back, but the big thing is to just be careful," Roethlisberger said at the time. "I'll just continue to be careful. I told him we don't ever ride alone, we always ride in a group of people, and I think it makes it even more safe."

New England quarterback Tom Brady was at a charity golf event when he found out that Roethlisberger was injured riding a motorcycle.

"You try to take some of those things and put them off for a later time in your life," Brady said, "but sometimes people want to live their lives and have fun and I think sometimes things happen like that. Hopefully, he's OK."

Roethlisberger, whose mother, Ida, died in a car accident when he was 8 years old, continued to ride after Winslow's accident and that angered Terry Bradshaw, who quarterbacked the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories during the 1970s.

Visiting the Steelers' training camp last summer, Bradshaw remarked: "Ride it when you retire."

ESPN.com football writers Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.