After four straight shortened seasons due to injury and entering his ninth NHL campaign, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has declared himself healthy and ready for the upcoming season.
Crosby discussed his battle back from concussions, the NHL's ongoing battle to make the game safer and some of the unconventional treatments that helped him recover in an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge that aired Wednesday night.
"Concussions are still kind of a mysterious thing. We do know a lot more now, but there are still things that we can learn and hopefully ways and methods we can learn to either heal or to find out more about the actual extent of the injuries," Crosby said.
On Jan. 1, 2011, during the Winter Classic, Crosby received a hit from David Steckel of the Washington Capitals that resulted in his first reported concussion in the NHL. Four days later Crosby's head was driven into the boards by Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman. Although Crosby continued to play in both contests, his symptoms worsened and after missing the next game against the Montreal Canadiens the team announced that he would be out of the lineup for a week.
However, Crosby was unable to return to game action until Nov. 21, 2011 over 11 months since being sidelined. He would only play eight games before recurring symptoms forced him back to the sidelines. Crosby didn't return to game action until mid-March, 2012.
There were some dark days when the thought he may never play hockey again at the professional level entered his mind.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say that I thought about it," Crosby told Mansbridge.
The standard recovery protocol when recovering from a concussion is rest, something that is extremely difficult for professional athlete who is used to competing on a daily basis.
"When you get a typical injury you're given a time frame, you're gradually working towards getting back," Crosby said. "With concussions there is not generally a time frame or a span where you're feeling better. You feel like you're getting better and it can be one day and you're back to where you started. It's a frustrating injury and one that anyone has gone through can relate. It's a hard one to understand unless you've gone through it."
During the interview, Crosby also discussed some of the alternative treatment options he sought to alleviate his lingering concussion symptoms when typical treatment failed to work, including his visits to Dr. Ted Carrick, the founding father of "chiropractic neurology."
Through his work with Carrick, Crosby was eventually able to return to the ice. When asked if he had any concussion-related symptoms since returning to action over year and half ago, Crosby emphatically said he had not, including after taking a puck to the face that broke his broke his jaw and forced him to miss the final 12 regular season games and the Penguins first playoff game.
"I've had a good couple of bumps along the way," Crosby said. "Obviously getting shot in the face was a good test."
Crosby still finished tied for third in league scoring (15 goals, 41 assists for 56 points) and captured the Ted Lindsay Award (player of the year selected by the NHLPA).
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native said the league's intent to curb dangerous hits has improved, but as time goes by, hockey at every level will need to adjust and adapt as the game changes to make sure it is as safe as possible.
However, Crosby did say that the game is fast and physical and it is impossible to protect everyone.
Going forward, Crosby said he will not change the way he plays the game for fear of getting hurt.
"I still feel that the physical part is just as enjoyable. I don't go into the corner thinking twice about my head," Crosby said.
While recovering from any injury can be frustrating, even more so from a concussion, Crosby is pleased with the way the process played out.
"Going through (recovery) so long and making sure there wasn't still any underlying things and forcing myself to (be completely healthy), it might be a different story. Maybe I wouldn't even be playing now. Looking back, as frustrating and long as it seemed, I am happy with the way that it went."