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Positive News for Crosby, Pens on Neck Injury

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins said in a statement that there is no evidence that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had a past or present neck fracture, but he is suffering from a soft-tissue injury of the neck that could be causing neurological symptoms.

Doctors say the symptoms of a soft-tissue neck injury are similar to concussion symptoms. That finding is something that Crosby, who is still experiencing symptoms, said is a positive sign.

“The biggest thing to take from it is that it’s something I can work on. I can get my neck worked on,” Crosby said at a media conference alongside Pens general manager Ray Shero. “There’s a pretty big possibility that could be causing some of the issues. I really hope that’s the case and with treatment that it’ll improve. That’s hopefully the end of it. Being able to work on that and not sitting around hoping to get rid of the symptoms, it’s nice information.”

While it is possible that the neck injury is causing his symptoms, the team has not ruled out that he may have suffered a concussion.

“A lot of this stuff is trial and error with these concussions and the accompanying symptoms,” said Shero, who said that none of the doctors indicated that Crosby would have to shutdown his season or retire. “With Sidney and the neck, the work being done, you want to rule everything out."

Crosby began skating since Jan. 13 in Florida, and joined some injured teammates on the ice before practice the last two days.

Shero added that the rumors of Crosby's season ending or that he'll retire have never been discussed.

"There has never been an indication from any doctor that we’ve dealt with over the last year where he would have to shut it down for the season and would have to retire," he said. "We’ve heard those rumors. Nothing has changed. We’re going along the path, continue to try to manage these symptoms and get them under control, get a handle on this and get him back on the ice safely and as quickly as possible, but most importantly safely.

"He’s a hockey player. He wants to play hockey. He has sought out other medical treatment and ours through our support to get back to play the game. Through his efforts, hopefully that will happen soon. If (the neck injury) is an issue that is causing some of those symptoms and we can get that under control, that would be great news.”

The Pens organization encourages all of their players to seek second and third opinions on any injury, which the team pays for.

Pens captain Sidney Crosby and general manager Ray Shero at media conference Tuesday evening
Crosby, who has missed the team's last 22 games, is experiencing inflammation in the C1 and C2 joints of the neck. He was treated with an injection to alleviate the swelling in those joints by Dr. Robert S. Bray. Dr. Bray, a neurological spine specialist based in Los Angeles, diagnosed a neck injury over the weekend, and will be overseeing Crosby’s treatment with therapists.

“There is inflammation there so it’s a matter of getting rid of that and seeing how it responds,” Crosby said.

After meeting with Crosby, Dr. Bray encouraged the team to seek out a second opinion.

Independent specialist Dr. Alexander Vaccaro, a spinal trauma expert at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, reviewed a CAT Scan and MRI taken last week by Dr. Bray with Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and CEO David Morehouse Monday morning in Philadelphia.

“When Sidney went to see Dr. Bray in California, they did a series of X-Rays and CAT Scans. In our conversations with Dr. Bray, his advice was there was something he saw that he wanted to get a second opinion on, which he encouraged us to get,” Shero said. “In addition to our team at UPMC, we sought out Dr. Vaccaro in Philadelphia and had a conference call (Monday).”

During the conference call, the doctors concluded that there was no evidence of a past or present fracture for Crosby, who missed 61 straight games after suffering a concussion in January 2011.

“All the doctors consulted during that conference call, which we were a part of,” Shero said. “They went through everything with what they saw and they came up with was no evidence of a past or present fracture, which was good news.

“One thing we’re trying to find out is what is causing these symptoms, how we can get him back safely to play. As I’ve said many times, he will not return until those symptoms disappear. That’s our next step and that’s the goal for everybody involved here.”
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