Crosby's recovery plight + 30 Thoughts | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaCrosby's recovery plight + 30 Thoughts

Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012 | 09:25 PM

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The possibilities of fractures in Sidney Crosby's vertebrae raises a boatload of questions, but as of now, no one has the answers. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press) The possibilities of fractures in Sidney Crosby's vertebrae raises a boatload of questions, but as of now, no one has the answers. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

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Sometime soon, Sidney Crosby hopes to learn the truth. As in, "What exactly is/was wrong with my neck?" But, the possibility of fractures in those areas raises a boatload of questions, and, right now, no one has the answers.
Sometime soon, Sidney Crosby hopes to learn the truth. As in, "What exactly is/was wrong with my neck?"

There's no doubt in my mind that Crosby, agent Pat Brisson and the entire Penguins organization wanted to keep this quiet. (One of my radio mentors, Bob McCown, reported that last Tuesday, Crosby was found to have an "abnormality" in his C1 and C2 vertebrae).

Crosby skated with Pittsburgh's other injured players on Monday. Coach Dan Bylsma said the team awaits results from an independent physician.

But, the possibility of fractures in those areas raises a boatload of questions, and, right now, no one has the answers.

How long ago did this happen?

The best part of the Penguins' statement and Brisson's comments is that the neck injury is "fully healed." That's tremendous news; his health is the most important thing.

It is possible we will never know. Once an injury is overcome, it can be difficult to determine when it occurred. However, these kinds of problems tend not to repair quickly. Even a small crack/fracture (known as a "micro" or "stress" fracture) can take months.

Could Crosby have sustained this kind of injury and fully recover in seven weeks?  That's the time frame between the David Krejci collision and the injury discovery.

Then again, if you don't know you have it, the question is moot.

How serious is this kind of injury?

It can be very serious. Ask your doctor or search the internet. It's not hard to find plenty of information about the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Basically, they connect the skull and the spine.

"The C1 and C2 are important for head and neck muscle movement and sensation," one doctor said.

By comparison, Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty's trauma last March was a non-displaced fracture to the C4. (The doctor said that, when he was in medical school, his "study rhyme" for the vertebrae was "C3, 4 and 5 keep your diaphragm alive." Therefore, while any trauma to the vertebrae is dangerous, areas of the body affected are different).

There was a point in New York Rangers defenceman Marc Staal's recovery that an issue was discovered with his C4, C5 and the "facet joints" around them. Remember that outstanding Winter Classic media conference where Glen Sather and Ed Snider fabulously taunted one another?

Sather suggested that day (it was Sept. 26) there was something -- not necessarily a concussion -- bothering his defenceman. It turns out that Staal was visiting a specialist to receive cortisone shots and undergo a procedure known as Radiofrequency Ablation, which can reduce vertebrae pain.

Both he and the Rangers were hopeful this could cure his headache issues, but it didn't. It wasn't until he rested and halted activity that things improved. (The vertebrae problem isn't necessarily connected to the hit from his brother Eric that caused the concussion).

However, Staal (like Pacioretty) was dealing with an area lower down on the spinal cord than Crosby. That made it much less likely their issues would affect the head and/or neck.

The other question is whether or not the injury healed properly. Because it went undetected, doctors would have to see if it's properly re-set.

How did this go undetected?

That's the number one question on everybody's mind. Considering the number of doctors/therapists/chiropractors who examined Crosby, it's impossible to understand how such an injury went undiscovered.

One possibility: because everyone focused on the brain and not the neck, the test of choice was an MRI. Didn't know this, but MRIs are excellent for determining brain, muscle or nerve damage -- but not for skeletal issues. A CAT scan or a Bone scan is far superior for measuring those kinds of injuries. Is it possible that Crosby didn't have such a test because doctors weren't looking in that direction?

I don't know. Just trying to find an explanation for how it could have happened.

Is Crosby angry at the Penguins?

That is the $100 million question.

"At this point, I feel, Sidney feels, that he's gotten every possible support from the Penguins [and the] Penguins' medical staff," Bylsma told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Put yourself in Crosby's shoes. You've been struggling with pain for a year and suddenly find out something else could be responsible. (Do have to believe, however, concussions remain a major part of this. If his C1 and C2 are healed, the biggest question would be: why isn't he playing, or closer to it?)

It's unbelievable to think that with everything the Penguins have invested in Crosby and his overall importance to the franchise, every possible test wouldn't be ordered -- especially since he himself discussed the whiplash effects of his injuries.

Crosby was seen by so many different people, it's hard for us to know exactly who was connected with the team and who he visited on his own. But, there's no question players put the greatest onus on the team doctors. You put your body out there for the organization and you expect it to treat you right. (Seth Rorabaugh, who runs the great "Empty Netters" blog, has a tremendous, fair breakdown of the team's recent injuries here.  

And, if Crosby was bothered beforehand by people questioning his recovery time, imagine how he feels now. How can you properly come back from an injury you don't know you have?

What was the highlight of All-Star weekend? The complete love-fest the city of Ottawa dropped on Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. Fifteen years from now, the same thing should happen for Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh. Let's hope that hasn't been damaged, too.


1. Tim Gleason is the first UFA-to-be Jim Rutherford ever signed during a season. "That tells you how much we think of him," the Hurricanes GM said. While it's been reported that the defenceman has a two-year no-trade that kicks in July 1, Rutherford promised both Gleason and agent Pat Morris that there will be no deal beforehand. (After Jeff Carter, more attention is being paid to this).

2. Gleason's decision is a victory for him, the Hurricanes and, yes, the Bruins. Gleason, whose wife is pregnant with their second child, told HNIC Radio's Gord Stellick and Kelly Hrudey the trade rumours were "a nightmare." Clearly, he wanted to stay and probably could have gotten more on the open market.

3. Why is it a victory for the Bruins? Well, their toughest playoff opponents won't get Gleason, who's a good player. Meanwhile, they won't have to give up an important asset or two from preventing it. Guys who battle hard in front of their own net are so critical in the post-season.

4. Some fun stuff from All-Star Weekend: Don't know what it is with Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla and kids at Scotiabank Q & A events, but there've been a couple of hilarious moments. On Friday, the first question came from a boy who had to be about nine. He grabbed the mic and asked, "If you could be traded, what team would you want to go to?" Iginla turned red, before expertly dodging the question.

5. A couple of years ago, in Montreal, he talked about how badly he wanted to win the Stanley Cup. The audience howled when another young boy told him, "I'm sorry, but if you want to win the Cup, you'll have to agree to be traded to the Canadiens." As you can imagine, Iginla handles these very well.

Did another event with Alfredsson and Bruins defender Zdeno Chara. Asked about a story I'd heard where the Senators' captain wanted to go cycling with Chara, who loves the sport. Apparently, Chara was asked the next day how it went and said he was disappointed because Alfredsson "quit after just four hours." They both laughed, but said it wasn't true.

7. They did tell an even better story, though. Years ago, Ottawa was in Vancouver and a few of the players decided to go on a bike ride. They were being pretty competitive and didn't realize they'd lost someone -- Anton Volchenkov. This was early in his career, when Volchenkov spoke almost zero English and Petr Schastlivy was the only guy he could talk to. Volchenkov found a park bench on the route they took and waited until the others doubled back to find him. It took about two hours.

8. Alfredsson, by the way, said he does not intend to be a GM when his career is over. Thought about it, but decided that route isn't for him.

9. Asked Chara if he could hit 108 miles per hour (or even Al Iafrate's previous record 105) with a wooden stick. He said he didn't know. Maybe, at next year's event, they could find a way to let him try it. Would be interesting to see.

10. Saw a few articles asking why the NHL doesn't turn the Winter Classic into the All-Star Game. Asked about this a couple of years ago, and the answer is pretty obvious: money. The Winter Classic makes money. The All-Star Game makes money. NHL cities clamor for both. Why decrease your revenue? The players should feel the same way, since they get 57 per cent of the cash.

11. On the broadcast, Glenn Healy brought up the possibility of All-Star being held in a European city like Stockholm. That is something the league is considering and it's a great idea. Also loved Jim Hughson's idea of having celebrity captains picking players (Mike Myers, Vince Vaughn for example).

12. Scott Hartnell started on a line with the Sedin twins. He told Scott Oake they asked him if he was fast. His reply: "Not really." They said, "Neither are we."

13.  Wrote last week that I understood Alexander Ovechkin's decision to skip All-Star weekend because of his suspension. Learned very quickly I'm in the minority on this one, from Andy McDonald calling him "classless" to a couple of team executives saying they would've advised Ovechkin to go there, not play, but smile and sign autographs. That would've scored major points.

14. That said, the sense is the Capitals are strongly behind him and realize (as does Ovechkin) that from now on, he will be judged solely on playoff performance. So, if a couple of days wearing SPF 30 in Florida means April, May and June success, they'll live with the fallout.

15. Do think, though, Chara's comment about not wanting appendectomy-recovering Jamie Benn to be the last pick was a (not-so) subtle message to Ovechkin. Also believe his decision to take Pavel Datsyuk first was a very different kind of message. Boy, do the players wax poetic about him. He stripped Erik Karlsson early in the game, and Karlsson came back to the bench smiling, shaking his head and mumbling, "Datsyuk."

16. Don't get to see enough of Dallas, so it's hard to really appreciate Benn. The accuracy of his shot is really something. Jordan Eberle said that after Benn entered the WHL as an 18-year-old in 2007, it didn't take long for word to get around that he had the best shot in the league.

17. Mentioned last week that it was believed Ryan Suter is off the market. (Suter, of course, announced he will not sign a new contract before the trade deadline). Wouldn't be surprised if David Poile comes right out and announces it. Suter said he made his decision to eliminate distractions and it makes sense for Poile to do the same.

18. The Predators were one of a few teams to send a private plane to pick up their players (Suter, Shea Weber and Craig Smith) from All-Star Weekend. That didn't go unnoticed.

19. The Oilers are letting teams know that they want defencemen in return for any trade assets. Makes sense.

20. Curious to see what Edmonton does with Colten Teubert should trades open up spots on the blue-line. Understand why fans want to see what he can do at the NHL level, but wonder if he might be better served long-term by staying in a winning environment and competing in playoff games at AHL Oklahoma City.

21. The Flames knew Brendan Morrison was willing to go to Chicago before sending him there. Word gets out when teams treat veterans like that. The Senators scored points last season by doing that with the guys they dealt.

22. Wrote a couple of weeks ago about free-agent contracts and noticed how few goalies strike it rich as a UFA. One agent sent along some interesting research: Only 28 times has a goalie above the age of 30 turned in a save percentage of at least .920 while playing 50 games. And, only five of them ever did it more than once. Can you guess the five? Answer in 10 thoughts.

23. ESPN Boston's Jimmy Murphy reported Tim Thomas addressed his teammates after Tuesday's game in Washington, thanking them for their support and "making sure all was well." Absolutely true, he did speak to them. Was there an actual apology? That's not so clear.

24. Why don't the Bruins believe this will be a distraction? First, they're a pretty professional and businesslike group. Second, they knew about Thomas's beliefs for years and it didn't prevent victory. Will say, though: When you see a story like this from The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa, it means one thing: A divorce is coming. Might not happen until the summer, but it's coming.

25. Head coach Claude Julien didn't want to talk about Thomas, but did say he'd like to see the Bruins add an experienced depth defenceman and an experienced depth forward.

26. Think Boston is working on an extension for UFA-to-be Johnny Boychuk, but don't think it's close.

27. Teams think the next couple of weeks will be critical for Pierre Gauthier and Joe Nieuwendyk in determining whether or not the "For Sale" sign goes on the front lawn. The Canadiens have eight of their next 12 at home. For the Stars, it's eight of 13 on the road.

28. Montreal has the number one penalty kill in the NHL. UFAs Hal Gill and Travis Moen are first and fourth on the team in shorthanded minutes per game. Those players have value for that reason.

29. The five goalies are Tomas Vokoun, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur and Tim Thomas.

30. Henrik Sedin wore a special shirt under his All-Star uniform. It promotes -- where youth and young adults can go to understand mental health issues and/or connect them to resources and support. The campaign is in memory of the late Rick Rypien and fulfills his wish to educate people about mental illness and depression. It's a great cause and, if you know someone who needs a hand, send them to the website.

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