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Bylsma: Crosby still has concussion-like symptoms

by Alan Robinson

CANONSBURG, Pa. -- More than three weeks since last playing, Sidney Crosby is experiencing concussion symptoms and his return to the Pittsburgh Penguins remains uncertain.
In the first Crosby-related update given by the team in more than two weeks, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday that Crosby is exercising lightly. That's seen as a positive sign since Crosby was unable to work out at times during his nearly 11-month concussion layoff that ended with his two-goal, four-point comeback game against the Islanders on Nov. 21.
But this is the first time since Crosby last played, against the Bruins on Dec. 5, that the Penguins have acknowledged their superstar is having a reoccurrence of his concussion symptoms. When Crosby missed a two-game road trip later that week, the team said it was for precautionary reasons because Crosby didn't feel well.
Crosby has not practiced since Dec. 7.
Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 12
SOG: 31 | +/-: 7
"He's still having symptoms," Bylsma told reporters following an off-day practice at the Iceoplex at Southpointe rink in suburban Pittsburgh.
Crosby last spoke to reporters on Dec. 12, saying he was having headaches but that he passed an imPACT neurocognitive test -- one used by numerous sports teams to determine when a player has healed from a concussion. At the time, Crosby said he felt much better than he did when he was hurt in January and that he was confident he wouldn't be sidelined long.
"My ImPACT was much, much worse after I did it in January," Crosby said. "But this is something I have to be careful with. … When I wasn't doing something for six, seven months, that process was a little longer. Hopefully, that's not the case here."
While Crosby has worked out periodically at Consol Energy Center since then, he has not resumed skating.
Because Crosby must go through the same steps he did before returning last month -- practicing without discomfort, then absorbing hits in practice without incident -- it would not appear that he will be playing again in the immediate future.
Neither Crosby nor the Penguins are speculating when the NHL's marquee star will play again.
Because Crosby's concussion affected his vestibular system, which controls a person's movement, stability and sense of balance, the recovery time typically is much longer than it is for some concussions.
The Penguins have not said if Crosby's current condition is a new injury related to several hits he absorbed in the Bruins game, including an elbow from forward David Krejci, or a reoccurrence of his previous concussion.

Despite the Penguins' recent success -- a streaking Evgeni Malkin and James Neal have led them to four consecutive victories -- Crosby's setback is a letdown for a team that goes into Wednesday's NHL action only two points out of the Eastern Conference lead.
Crosby's long-awaited return last month clearly buoyed the Penguins, but his comeback lasted only eight games -- he had 2 goals and 12 points -- before he was shut down again.
Pittsburgh is 5-3 since Crosby last played and 16-9-3 this season without him.
Next week marks the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 1 and Jan. 5 games in which Crosby absorbed hard hits -- by the Capitals' David Steckel and the Lightning's Victor Hedman -- that caused the concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the season and the first 20 games of this season.
Defenseman Kris Letang, who sustained a concussion five days after Crosby returned, is feeling better but has not resumed skating, Bylsma said. Letang has missed 12 games. Rookie defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who also has a concussion, has increased the tempo of his workouts and could resume skating as early as Thursday.
A number of NHL star players -- Shea Weber of Nashville is the latest -- have had or are experiencing concussions, which Bylsma said is regrettable. Like others around the League, he isn't certain what needs to be done to prevent an injury that already has sidelined Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger for the rest of the season.
Since Crosby was hurt nearly a year ago, the NHL now requires any player who displays concussion-like symptoms during a game to be taken to a quiet area off the ice to be examined immediately. No player can return to a game until he is fully cleared.
"It's unfortunate to see Shea Weber have a concussion, Simon Gagne, and you want to talk about the health of the players -- and it is something to talk about," Bylsma said. "And maybe we talk a lot more about it now than we did before."
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin (lower-body injury) could take part in the morning skate Thursday. He has been out since Dec. 16.

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