Penguins Notebook: Crosby irked by hits linked to concussion


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There has been criticism concerning the way Sidney Crosby's concussion was diagnosed and when it was discovered. The Penguins' All-Star center had some criticism, too, but it was aimed in a different direction.

Crosby questioned two hits that presumably caused, or contributed to, his injury. He got blindsided by Washington's David Steckel in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Heinz Field, then got slammed from behind into the boards Wednesday by Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman.

"I didn't like them," Crosby said Saturday. "You talk about head shots and dealing with them, that's been something that's been a pretty big point of interest from [general managers] and players.

"When I look at those two hits and we talk about blindside and unsuspecting player ... There's no puck there on both of them. A direct hit to the head on both of them. When you go through the criteria, I think they fit all those."

Steckel was not penalized. Hedman received a boarding minor. Neither was suspended by the NHL, which, in recent years, has developed a regimented medical protocol for dealing with concussions and more recently has cracked down on hits to the head -- in part because of a hit last season by the Penguins' Matt Cooke on Boston's Marc Savard that forced Savard to miss several months.

Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer, will not play until he is symptom-free and can exercise and skate without renewed symptoms.

He was doubled over and looked dazed after the second-period hit by Steckel but remained in the game. He was not tested then for a concussion, leading to second-guessing about whether the Penguins and medical staff missed something.

Crosby and coach Dan Bylsma were emphatic that, at that time, Crosby had no concussion symptoms.

"It seemed to be all neck-related," Crosby said. "I've gotten hit a lot over my time playing hockey and had sore necks. That's kind of what it felt like at the time."

Bylsma insisted the Penguins did not take any risks with Crosby.

"There isn't a person that we would put in the ice that had concussion symptoms," he said.

Crosby practiced Monday and Tuesday. It was not until the game Wednesday against Tampa Bay -- before the second-period hit by Hedman -- that he began to notice symptoms.

"Throughout the game, I didn't feel right," he said.

He consulted with doctors, who asked him to monitor how he felt overnight after he flew with the team to Montreal. Thursday morning, he wasn't better.

"You just feel off -- headaches, a little sick," Crosby said.

Bylsma said Crosby did not seem impaired.

"I had a lengthy conversation in Montreal at breakfast with Sid and a couple other players," Bylsma said. "I commented afterward how sharp he was and how he was his normal self."

Cooke chartered a plane home that day because of an illness in his family, so Crosby joined him. When they arrived, Crosby was evaluated, and tests compared with his baseline cognitive test showed a mild concussion.

Concussion symptoms can vary and, in Crosby's case, apparently took at least a few days to surface.

"I've had a few [concussions]," Cooke said. "Everyone's different, but, in my experience, it's depending on the severity. Sometimes, it could be nothing other than you're off in space at times. It could be dizziness, irritability to certain things. One time I had one and I couldn't have the radio on in the car because it just irritated me."

Forward Craig Adams had no symptoms after he got knocked out while playing at Harvard at a time before standardized concussion testing.

"It was sort of a different situation because I hurt my shoulder pretty badly," Adams said. "I was going to be out for a long time anyway ... and they knew I was going to take the necessary rest, but I never had a headache, never felt not myself."

The Penguins initially estimated Crosby would miss about a week, but he is willing to be patient with his first concussion.

"I'd like to think I'm cautious with every [injury], but probably a little more so [now]," Crosby said. "You have to rely on the doctors and what they say. It's important to let them know your symptoms and everything going on. There will be a lot of communication that way. There's got to be no symptoms."


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com . First Published January 9, 2011 5:00 AM


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