After a summer of mostly silence and speculation, Penguins fans got an update on captain Sidney Crosby’s health this week. The news was hardly reassuring, however, as Crosby’s status essentially remains unchanged from what it was last spring – there is no timetable for his return to the ice.
“We always knew this was going to be a progressive recovery, based on how he felt,” said agent Pat Brisson. “With a concussion, there is not a finite recovery period like with a shoulder injury or a knee injury. That’s why we’ve never even set a specific goal for a return date, like the start of training camp or October 1 or anything else. He will play when he is symptom-free.”
The good news is that Crosby worked hard this offseason, following his normal summer program of skating, shooting, stickhandling and off-ice work at his home in Nova Scotia. The bad news is that, just like last spring, when Crosby started exerting himself too hard – about 90 percent – his headaches returned.
“He’s never had to get to the point where he’s had to shut himself down or anything,” said Penguins GM Ray Shero, but Crosby’s doctors and trainers have altered his workouts based on his symptoms. They’ve also sent him to see leading concussion specialists in Michigan and Georgia, who agreed that Pittsburgh’s franchise player will make a full recovery – in time.
Will it be in time for training camp, the preseason, or the start of the regular season? Nobody, not even Crosby, knows for sure.
“We would appreciate patience and understanding at this time,” Brisson said. “There has been a lot of speculation swirling over the past several weeks. We wish we could provide more specific details about Sidney’s recovery, but a concussion is a different kind of injury. It’s not something you can check with an x-ray, and you can’t predict a precise recovery period.
“It’s all about the way he feels. He has been feeling a lot better, but we want to give him all the time he needs to make a full recovery.”
That goes not just for Crosby’s career, but for the remainder of his young life.
“He’s only 24, and he’s got a lot of great years ahead of him,” Brisson said.
“The thing for me and for the organization is the bigger picture for Sidney Crosby, making sure that he is 100 percent cleared and ready to play when he does come back,” Shero said. “He’s not going to be pushed to come back to practice or play.
“I want to make sure a year from now, three years from now, five years from now, that he’s still the best player in the league. My only concern is his long-term health.”
Crosby is expected to return to Pittsburgh about a week before training camp begins in September, when he’ll be evaluated again by Dr. Michael Collins of UPMC, a nationally renowned expert in sports-related concussions.
In the meantime, head coach Dan Bylsma will think about contingencies for his lineup. Crosby will need to be symptom-free to be cleared for full participation in training camp and preseason games. If and when that happens, however, Bylsma expects to see no less than the Crosby who reported to work for the Winter Classic last January 1, before he was sidelined by two hits to the head in a five-day span.
“When Sidney Crosby’s healthy and ready to go, he’s not going to shy away from contact, nor is he going to shy away from competition,” Bylsma said. “It’s going to take quite a bit to keep him from getting ready for the start of the regular season.”
Whether Crosby’s symptoms plan to cooperate, only time will tell.