Sidney Crosby did the right thing in noticing concussion symptoms and in deciding to sit out rather than "play through" them.
At 24, Crosby's the reigning superstar in the game of hockey – and smart enough to know something was wrong even when tests didn't uncover a problem. An impact test right after his game last week showed no immediate signs of injury. But by the weekend, he was feeling headaches when he worked out. He shut it down indefinitely. It's difficult to know what to advise when so little is known about the severity and implications of brain injury. Crosby can afford the best experts in the world, but they couldn't detect the problem right away. Hockey – and the sport world – only recently recognized the seriousness of concussions, after generations of shrugging them off with the facile explanation "he got his bell rung."
What does the weekend jock do? I'd tell my own son to err or the side of caution, especially if he's had a concussion before. What we do know is that subsequent concussions can happen with a less forceful hit. Crosby's current symptoms are likely the result of a Dec. 5 collision with Boston's David Krejci – and it wasn't a thunderous check. Armed with test results, a patient history and his own experience, some guessing still takes place, says London, Ont., sport medicine specialist Dr. Paul Echlin. "It's not that easy."
Dr. Echlin says parents can support their child's sports excellence. :"But you focus on his long-term health."
One recalls the words of former Anaheim Duck and St. Louis Blues forward Paul Kariya, who took a year off after his last concussion. He felt good enough to play at age 36, but heeded the words of his doctor -- even if he recovered 100 per cent from a concussion, he should retire and not risk re-injury.
"The thing I worry about is that you'll get a guy who is playing with a concussion, and he gets hit, and he dies at centre ice," Kariya said.
The Penguins don't need to rush Crosby back. They've won 12 and lost six games without him and were 5-3 with him. The Pens have been as confused by concussion as the rest of us.
"There aren't a lot of general comparisons dealing with individual players. Last year we had other players dealing with a concussion. They all seemed to follow different symptoms, patterns, recoveries and lengths of time. It's tough to say we'll treat this instance different when it comes to the player's 100-per cent health. Getting rid of those symptoms is paramount. If anything we'll continue with that as a way we treat the protocol for a player's health and coming back to play," says coach Dan Bylsma.
Crosby has proven his value as the most important icon in the NHL by making a stand. Is it easy? No.... he loves hockey; he'd rather be playing than sitting. But Crosby sets a good example for millions of kids and other pros by waiting out the symptoms.
"I don't think 'frustrating' even describes it," Crosby told reporters. He'd returned for only eight games – and scored two goals and a dozen points – since concussion symptoms knocked him out of hockey for 10 months. "It's much different than previously going through that stuff. I'm way better off than I was dealing with this stuff 10 months ago... I just figured it was better to be cautious here and not take any chances.
"I'm not (feeling) bad. And I'm not happy about watching. But I've got to make sure with these sort of things that I'm careful."
So saying, he's shown he's the game's biggest asset.