Will Sidney Crosby Ever Fully Recover?
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That was what the sports section from the January 6 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read.
But Crosby's concussion was anything but mild. The Penguins star and NHL goldenboy would go on to miss the next four months of the season, resulting in a whirlwind of finger-pointing and speculation.
The hit that officially knocked Crosby out occurred on January 5 against the Lightning. Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman slammed into Crosby, who had his face to the glass after flicking the puck around the back of the net. Crosby collapsed to the fetal position, then moments later wobbled off the ice in an obvious daze. Hedman sat out two minutes for boarding. Crosby sat out the rest of the season.
At the time it seemed like an isolated incident. However, some began to speculate that Crosby actually suffered an initial concussion the game before—the Winter Classic against the Capitals—and that the injury was compounded when he was hit from behind by Hedman.
The theory gained merit as Crosby's return date was continually pushed back due to recurring concussion symptoms. Retirement rumors began to float around, but were quickly extinguished by Crosby's parents and agent.
The Penguins claim they evaluated Crosby after the Winter Classic and that he displayed no signs of a concussion leading up to the Tampa Bay game.
“I talked to him myself for 10 minutes before the [Tampa Bay] game, probably around 4:30—never, ever, ever occur to me there was anything wrong,” General Manager Ray Shero said in an interview with CBS Pittsburgh.
No one, not even Crosby, knows what really occurred. The level of grey area surrounding head injuries, coupled with hockey's hyper-masculine "shake it off and get back on the ice" ideology may have caused Crosby to simply ignore any symptoms he was experiencing.
The question that we're left with six months after that unfortunate incident is this: will Sidney Crosby ever return to his pre-concussion level of production?
Let's take a look at how some other players fared after suffering similar head injuries.
Paul Kariya suffered a major concussion after taking a cross check to the head from defenseman Gary Suter during the 1997-98 season. Kariya sat out the remainder of the year (60 games), but was still an All-Star-caliber player when he returned.
Minnesota Wild center Pierre-Marc Bouchard was shut down early in the 2009-10 season for recurring concussion-like symptoms. He missed over 100 games, but when he returned he maintained the exact same production as the season before his injury—one point every 1.5 games.
Boston's Patrice Bergeron hasn't been as lucky. He missed 72 games during the 2007-08 season and, although he hasn't been unsuccessful, he isn't quite the player he was before the injury. In the two seasons before the concussion he averaged about 74 points per season (82 games) compared to to 56 post-concussion.
Of course, Bergeron's decline might not have been caused by his injury. But it's certainly something to think about.
The fact of the matter is, a concussion's impact varies greatly from player-to-player. But, if we look at history, most are able to make a full recovery.
And that's what the big wigs of the NHL are praying that Sidney Crosby does, too.
At time of publication, Crosby had been cleared by trainers to partake in full workouts.
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