Experts: Penguins’ Crosby in good position to recover from concussion
Despite the unease that fell over the Penguins and their fans Monday afternoon, Sidney Crosby is in good position to make a complete recovery from his latest concussion, experts in the field told the Tribune-Review.
According to coach Mike Sullivan, Crosby suffered the injury — the third documented concussion of his 12-year NHL career — during Friday’s practice. When Crosby reported to PPG Paints Arena before Saturday’s exhibition game with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he told team officials he wasn’t feeling well.
The concussion was diagnosed via testing Monday morning at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. The team offered no time line for Crosby’s return.
There is no reason to believe Crosby is automatically in for another long, frustrating recovery process just because his experience with the injury in 2011 was difficult, said Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
“There have been plenty of athletes, even in the NHL, who took a whole year off for a concussion, got one later and only needed two weeks to recover,” Nowinski said. “No need to start writing retirement stories.”
Dr. Josh Bloom, a concussion specialist with Carolina Family Practice & Sports Medicine who works with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, said the consensus in his field is that athletes’ brains can, and often do, make a complete recovery from a concussion.
“When a concussion is well managed, taken care of well and treated to resolution, the risk of repeat injury, the concussion threshold, so to speak, is comparable to where it was prior to the injury,” Bloom said.
Bloom said the fact that Crosby played the past four seasons without incident is a reassuring sign. Nowinski said concussion treatment has improved since Crosby’s last bout with the injury.
“I think doctors are getting better at treatment and rehabilitation,” Nowinski said. “I think teams are getting more conservative with no longer trying to rush athletes back. You’re certainly better off getting a concussion today than you were five years back and even more so than 10 years ago.”
Still, each athlete’s recovery is different, which leaves open the door to any number of outcomes.
“We all have to advise athletes to retire from their sport, depending on their particular situation, and that’s a tough thing,” Bloom said. “No head trauma is good head trauma. A concussion is never a good thing. But ideally, if these things are recognized and managed well, you can avoid that in many athletes.”
The news broke hours before players were scheduled to receive championship rings to commemorate winning the 2016 Stanley Cup.
It brought unease because of Crosby’s history with concussions.
After taking two blows to the head in a span of five days in 2011, Crosby began an arduous recovery that caused him to miss the second half of the 2010-11 season and most of 2011-12. He saw multiple experts and tried multiple therapies before finally returning to the lineup for good in March 2012.
Crosby had reported no problems since and was playing some of the best hockey of his career last postseason, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Penguins claimed the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup championship.
“Injuries are part of our game,” Sullivan said. “And so part of the challenge is for us to try to help Sid get healthy as quickly as possible, and that’s what we’re going to do. We don’t look at it any other way. For me, frustration at this point is a useless emotion.”
Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, declined comment.