For its first major initiative, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation is teaming with UPMC Sports Medicine to provide all youth hockey players who have reached the point of allowable contact in games to have free baseline concussion testing.
Beginning next month, players ages 11-18 will be eligible for testing through a program called "Heads Up Pittsburgh."
Concussions have been widely discussed in many sports. In the NHL, the one that forced Penguins star forward Sidney Crosby to miss his 39th game in a row Tuesday night against New Jersey has focused even more attention on that type of brain injury.
Baseline tests are used for comparison to gauge impairment and recovery when someone has a concussion.
"It's the same exact test that the NHL players get," Penguins CEO and president David Morehouse said, adding that this has been in the works since October and wasn't a response to Crosby's concussion "but it added to the effort."
The tests, done while sitting at a computer, take about 30 minutes, usually cost $25 to $40 each. The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation is paying for the youth hockey testing.
Local players affiliated with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League, the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League or any USA Hockey program are eligible. That's a combined group estimated at more than 6,000 boys and girls. Their parents will receive an email with a password so they can register for testing at www.upmc.com/hockeytesting.
"We're trying to show how an NHL team can be involved in youth hockey," Morehouse said.
"It makes all the sense in the world. This research was developed largely in Western Pennsylvania. The doctors at UPMC are the leaders in the field."
While the young players are being tested, parents will receive educational information about concussions from the Center for Disease Control and meet with UPMC Sports Medicine concussion program staff.
Testing will begin May 1 at the UPMC Sports Medicine Center.
It will expand in June at five Community College of Allegheny County campuses.
Ed Sam, commissioner of the PIHL, said he hopes the testing becomes mandatory for his players starting next season.
The Penguins again are expected to have a big outdoor screen for viewing playoff games, but, with the closing of Mellon/Civic Arena, the screen apparently will be in part of the South Lot, a parking area near Gate 2 of the old arena. It used to be by Gate 3 of the old arena in the past.
Six players sat out the Penguins' optional morning skate, but winger Chris Kunitz had a unique reason -- he was with his wife, Maureen, who gave birth to a daughter, Payton Marie.
It was the second time in as many days that a player's wife had given birth. Danielle Johnson, wife of goaltender Brent, had a daughter, Everly Grayce, Monday morning.
Brent Johnson was back for the game-day skate Tuesday.
"I can't believe it. I can't believe they're going to let me go home with a baby [today]," he said. "I still have a lot of questions."
Not about changing diapers, though.
"I already did that. I'm an ace, I think," he said. "I think she's going to be a daddy's girl."
Center Sidney Crosby (concussion) skated before the team with Matt Cooke (suspension), Eric Tangradi (concussion) and Nick Johnson (concussion), then joined the team for the skate. Coach Dan Bylsma said there remains no timetable for Crosby to be cleared to participate in full-contact practices. ... The others who sat out the optional skate were forwards Jordan Staal, James Neal and Alex Kovalev and defensemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang. ... Forward Arron Asham, who missed Saturday's game at Florida because of a minor injury, returned to the lineup. The Penguins scratched forwards Mike Comrie and Eric Godard and defenseman Deryk Engelland.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com . First Published April 6, 2011 4:15 AM