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Former players urge caution on concussions

| Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011

Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau are two of the biggest villains in Penguins history, but they come in peace when offering Sidney Crosby advice.

After all, they've been in his shoes.

Lindros and Primeau each saw their careers cut short because of multiple concussions and hope Crosby overcomes any temptation to return too early.

"Everyone wants Sidney to come back soon," Lindros said. "Everyone wants to see him dominate again. But more than that, I want to see him healthy before he comes back. We're talking about brain trauma here."

Lindros returned too quickly from concussions, notably in the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinals against New Jersey. Defenseman Scott Stevens gave Lindros yet another concussion in Game 7 of that series, and the forward was never the same.

"As soon as you receive one," Lindros said, "your tolerance level is depleted."

Primeau sustained at least four concussions in his career, the final one forcing him to retire three years before he had planned. The man who once beat the Penguins in the fifth overtime of a classic 2000 playoff game hopes Crosby doesn't get seduced by the thought of returning for the playoffs if he isn't 100 percent.

Concussions shortened the careers of forwards Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau.
GP G A P Diagnosed concussions Retirement age
Eric Lindros 760 372 493 865 9 34
Keith Primeau 909 266 353 619 4 35

Even though he retired five years ago, Primeau still suffers headaches and dizziness because of concussions.

"Sid needs to listen to his body," Primeau said, "I know he feels like he's been out of the game forever by now, but if your body is telling you that you aren't ready to come back, you need to listen."

Primeau isn't buying the Penguins' insistence that Crosby sustained his concussion Jan. 5 on a Victor Hedman hit. Instead, Primeau is convinced Crosby's concussion occurred four days earlier in the Winter Classic thanks to a blindside hit by David Steckel.

"I believe that is where he received the concussion and that the second hit exasperated his symptoms," Primeau said. "I don't know why (the Penguins) have to say he didn't have a concussion before the next game. It's nobody's fault. No one did anything wrong."

Lindros and Primeau have become students of how to minimize the number of concussions plaguing the NHL. Legendary coach Scotty Bowman recently offered a theory that the elimination of the red line -- which has increased speed through the neutral zone because two-line passes no longer exist -- is the primary culprit.

Lindros agrees with Bowman and would like to see the front row of arena seats eliminated, so that players have more room to maneuver.

"It would be safer," Lindros said. "And the way it is now, forwards on the forecheck are getting such a run at defensemen. You see much bigger hits now, with more impact."

Primeau suggested that a bigger surface would have aided Crosby in the Winter Classic.

"Perfect example," he said. "Steckel didn't do anything intentional. He's a big man, and he didn't have any room to move. If the ice were wider, maybe he would have avoided him."

Although Lindros doesn't want to see Crosby rush back, he believes the Penguins captain will overcome the injury.

Just give it time, he said.

"I'm not trying to give Sid advice," Lindros said. "Everyone's different and everyone's situation is different. I'm sure he's surrounded by good medical people. And the good thing is, he's young. When he comes back, he'll need two or three weeks to get his timing back, and then I bet he'll dominate again."

And if Crosby doesn't come back this year• That's OK, both players agree.

"This is about a man's health," Primeau said. "That's more important than a championship."

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