The concussion debate continues to rage on in the NHL, as Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is back on the sidelines with symptoms just a few weeks after making his comeback from a 10-month absence.
Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger is done for the regular season and playoffs, after being diagnosed with severe concussion symptoms. And Pronger's teammate, Claude Giroux, and Carolina Hurricanes standout Jeff Skinner are among the other NHL players dealing with this problem.
However, no player's injury has brought the same amount of attention as Crosby's, as the media and fans spend days speculating on when or if he'll return this season. There were also changes to the league's concussion protocol that were made in the months following Crosby's concussion in January of 2011.
So should the Penguins star forward be the example of how the NHL handles this ongoing issue?
Let's take a look at some reasons why or why not.
While not everyone is satisfied with this fact, Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL and has been since he entered the league. He is the reason the Penguins get a lot of national television time, and he is also the center of sponsorship deals and marketing for big events such as the Winter Olympics.
Crosby's struggles have been analyzed inside and out, and his first return this season was hyped by NHL.com and the NHL Network throughout the day. Everyone was watching to see how he carried himself and how he would perform in his first game against the New York Islanders.
If the NHL uses him for the center of their handling of concussions, people will remember his story and be able to relate it to other players going through the same thing. If the league uses a star rather than a player fewer people know about, such as Marc Savard, they can bring more awareness from those outside the hockey world, as well as current fans.
When it comes to concussions in sports, no two athletes handle them differently. Some only have minor injuries and are back in the game within a week or two. Others need months or a year to recover and experience serious symptoms such as memory loss.
Crosby's case is not exactly the same as Marc Savard's or Patrice Bergeron's, for example. Therefore, it would be hard for the league to use just him as an example of how they will try to cut back on concussions. Furthermore, no matter what the NHL does, no preventive measure will eliminate head injuries entirely.
Last March, the NHL came out with their new protocol regarding how concussions should be handled during games. This included players who could possibly have a concussion being taken to a quiet room in the arena to be evaluated by a team doctor.
Also, prior to the start of this season, the league rolled out changes to Rule 48 involving head shots. If a player delivers a hit in any area of the ice that targets the head, they were given a minor penalty. In extreme cases, suspensions could be handed down by new disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
In fact, before the regular season started, some players were given lengthy suspensions as a result of incidents in preseason games.
While Crosby's concussion certainly wasn't the only thing paving the way for these changes, you have to wonder if the league would have rolled out these rules had he not gotten hurt. It is obvious he was at least a partial influence in the league's increased awareness of the concussion problem.
One of the reasons some NHL fans are not particularly fond of Crosby is that he is over-promoted by the league. There is a lot of press around him, from print stories to television commercials, and fans often protest for other players to be involved in the NHL's marketing efforts.
Therefore, it would be risky to use him as the face of the concussion debate. He is not the only one who has been affected by the injury in recent months, even if he is the most recognizable. The public might feel that other cases are being overlooked by the NHL or that other players' concussions aren't as important as Crosby's.
Therefore, it could backfire, as fans are already drained by talk on concussions as it is. Should the league really look to Crosby as the model to handle concussions? After all, he would be plenty talked about if he were healthy.
When Sidney Crosby was concussed last January, it was one of the league's more high-profile injury cases. As more players got diagnosed or were being targeted with head hits, the NHL decided to adopt changes in protocol and the rule book to cut down on this.
However, there is just no way to say that Crosby should be the league's face of the concussion debate, and they shouldn't have one player in particular take on the role. That player is not going to be the standard to how all NHL players recover from a concussion, because as we stated earlier, every person is different.
Also, because people are already worn out on Crosby exposure, they may turn away from the argument if they see him being made an example of once again. That means the fans will not be as aware of concussions as they could be.
While the NHL can surely use Crosby as an example of how concussions affect their players, he shouldn't be the only source.