Both the agent for Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed Saturday that the fallen superstar’s latest setback has been the result of a neck injury.
Pat Brisson, Crosby’s agent, said his client’s latest absence from hockey occurred because he may have suffered fractures to the C1 and C2 vertebrae.
Brisson added that his client’s goal remains to play again this season and he didn’t see this diagnosis as a setback. There remains, however, no timetable for Crosby’s return.
"[The diagnosis] gives him a bit more of a direction," Brisson said after the NHL all-star skills challenge at Scotiabank Place on Saturday. "This is a complicated area, concussions. Sidney knows more about the brain than any player I know at this point. We have all learned through this.
"His goal is to play once he’s safe and sound, and feels good and has no symptoms. His goal is to play, the sooner the better. I can’t put any timeline. I have no clue."
Crosby has skated almost every day for the past two weeks, including an on-ice session in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
After skating with his teammates before a game in Florida on Jan. 13, Brisson said that Crosby travelled to Utah to undergo treatment from trainer Alex Guerrero, who works with many NFL players, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
After his stop in Utah, Crosby went to Atlanta to work with chiropractor Ted Carrick. Then it was on to Los Angeles to see neurological spine specialist Dr. Robert Bray, who diagnosed the neck injury.
Crosby was knocked out of hockey for 10½ months after absorbing head shots in back-to-back games in early January 2011. He returned for eight games this season, beginning with a triumphant comeback game on Nov. 21, before his latest setback occurred in a game against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 5.
It's unclear whether his neck injury was suffered in the Bruins game, or whether it traces back to the blows to the head Crosby took last January.
When asked if Crosby had suffered a concussion in the game against the Bruins, Brisson said "no," but then said, "I’m not going to evaluate whether this was a second concussion or first or third. All I can say is that Sidney went to see Dr. Bray and he was diagnosed with a neck injury. He had an MRI and a CAT scan and early next week we are going to evaluate what was found perhaps.
"The good news is that Sidney is safe and doing well and not in danger. That’s number one. Number two is we want to find out if it’s accurate. I can’t say much more than that."
"He was good all week. It was good for him to get some therapy and continue his workouts."
Before Brisson spoke to reporters, the Penguins issued a statement that confirmed Crosby’s neck injury.
"The diagnosis of Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialist based in Los Angeles, is that Sidney Crosby had suffered a neck injury in addition to a concussion," the statement read.
"Dr. Bray reports that the neck injury is fully healed. Those findings will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next few days. The most important goal all along has been Sidney's return to full health, and we are encouraged that progress continues to be made."
The C1 and C2 are the highest two vertebrae in the cervical spine. The joint between the C1 vertebra and the skull is responsible for 50 per cent of the flexion and extension in the neck, like nodding the head to indicate "yes." The joint between the C1 vertebra and the C2 vertebra provides 50 per cent of the side-to-side turning of the neck.