Penguins captain Crosby progressing, but no timetable for return
Sidney Crosby is feeling better than he has in months. He's skating again, and he's confident he will play for the Penguins this season.
The question neither he nor members of his concussion team can answer is, Whe n?
For all the specifics provided by Crosby and two medical experts during a news conference Wednesday at Consol Energy Center, there are no specific dates for Crosby's return to game action.
"Recently, Sid has made exceptional progress towards improving and to becoming normal," said Michael Collins, a clinical psychologist who heads UPMC's Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
"We're going to make sure he is 100 percent normal before he returns to play."
The first practices of training camp are Sept. 17. The Penguins open the regular season at Vancouver on Oct. 6.
Neither Collins nor Ted Carrick, a Florida-based chiropractor who specializes in neurological issues, ruled out that Crosby could be available for either date — though Collins stressed Crosby is "not close" to contact drills.
Crosby, out with a concussion since Jan. 5, skated yesterday morning for about an hour before speaking publicly about his status for the first time since April 29.
He called playing this season "likely" and said he "wouldn't bet on" speculation that the concussion could force him to retire after scoring 215 goals and 572 points in 412 games in his six-season NHL career.
Carrick said Crosby was referred to him last month because of lingering concussion symptoms that included "fogginess, dizziness, light-headedness and an inability to do different things at maximum function." After three weeks of treatment, Crosby said only the headaches remain — and those only after he approaches 90 percent exertion during workouts.
He will not be cleared for contact until he can work out at 100 percent exertion, Collins and Carrick said. When cleared, contact will increase in increments and Crosby will require reaching normal results of a baseline cognitive test before he gains clearance to play, Collins said.
"Maybe I could get by at 90 percent — maybe I couldn't — but I'm not going to roll the dice on that," Crosby said.
The Penguins' stance has been that a hit from behind into the boards by Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman on Jan. 5 caused Crosby's concussion, but Collins said a blindside blow by David Steckel on Jan. 1 "didn't help the situation."
Collins, who re-evaluated Crosby on Monday, said Crosby's brain would show "no evidence of the injury" when Crosby is cleared to play. He also said field research indicated that athletes returning to play after full recovery from a concussion are "far less" likely for repetitive concussion problems.
"I'm very optimistic that we'll see Sid have a long, fruitful NHL career," Collins said.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby spoke Wednesday about his concussion for the first time since April 29 and said he "likely" will play this season. A look back at his past eight months:
Jan. 1: He absorbs a blindside hit from Washington's David Steckel during the Winter Classic game at Heinz Field. He finishes the game, but HBO cameras show him looking dazed during second intermission.
Jan. 5: Insisting only his neck is stiff, he plays in the Penguins' next game against Tampa Bay at Consol Energy Center. He is driven from behind into boards by the Lightning's Victor Hedman, but returns to play. He accompanies the Penguins on a postgame charter flight to Montreal.
Jan. 6: He awakes in Montreal with headache, nausea, general disorientation and neck soreness. He returns to Pittsburgh for medical evaluation and is diagnosed with a concussion.
March 31: He resumes on-ice practices with Penguins at Tampa Bay, but he is not cleared for contact by UPMC's Michael Collins, a clinical psychologist.
April 20: He participates in his final noncontact practice before he is shut down midway through Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs because of headaches. Team officials and Crosby's camp said later those headaches were possibly sinus-related.
April 29: Crosby addresses his status and vaguely says he expects to be ready by August.
June 2: He is cleared by Collins for regular offseason workouts, but not contact.
July 15: Penguins GM Ray Shero says Crosby has resumed offseason workouts, including on-ice drills, but no contact. He calls Crosby's playoff shutdown a "step back, not a setback."
Aug. 14: Amid Internet buzz that Crosby has experienced a significant setback, Shero says Crosby has experienced a reoccurrence of concussion symptoms, but that he has not been shut down from offseason training.
Aug. 24: The Penguins release a statement with comments from Crosby and agent Pat Brisson. The statement says that Crosby, with team approval, is seeing concussion experts in Michigan and Georgia because he has experienced headaches after conducting on-ice workouts at "90 percent exertion." Also, his workouts have been adjusted accordingly.
Wednesday: Crosby updates his status after finishing an on-ice workout at Consol Energy Center. His concussion team — Collins and Florida-based chiropractor Ted Carrick — said Crosby has progressed over the past three weeks but stress he is not close to clearance for contact. No timetable is provided for a potential return to games.
Source: Tribune-Review research