Crosby urges NHL to rule headshots out of hockey
Published Wednesday, September 7, 2011 10:54PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:54AM EDT
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby broke his four-month silence on Wednesday, to tell his fans he's not leaving the game he loves. But he also made it clear he believes the NHL has to change.
Crosby, 24, convened a news conference in Pittsburgh with the two doctors who have headed up his treatment and rehabilitation since suffering two concussions in close succession eight months ago.
Answering the question at the top of many people's minds, he underscored his desire to return to the NHL, even if he couldn't say when.
"Retirement no, I think I've always thought about the core of this injury and being smart about it because that's the last thing I want, but at the end of the day, no, I didn't give a lot of thought to it," said the native of Cole Harbour, N.S.
He went on to explain that he has been thinking about the league policy, or lack thereof, regarding headshots.
Of the tens of thousands of hits in the NHL every year, Crosby told reporters he had come across a statistic suggesting that just 50 of those were hits to the head.
"And to take those out, the game's not going to change," he said.
"As players we're professionals, and the odd time maybe there's accidental contact, but for the most part we can control what goes on out there," he continued, questioning the distinction between stickhandling rules and those covering players' bodies.
"If a guy's got to be responsible with his stick, why shouldn't he be responsible with the rest of his body when he's going to hit someone? Whether it's accidental or not accidental, you've got to be responsible out there, and like I said, at the end of the day, it could do a lot more good than what it's going to take away from the game."
Rule changes aside, Crosby dismissed suggestions he may be forced to stay away from the game, telling reporters that was only a "slim possibility" and saying "I wouldn't bet on that."
Dr. Michael Collins, who has been treating the Pittsburgh Penguins star since January when he sustained two hits to the head within a week of each other, said Crosby is experiencing "significant improvements" in his recovery from concussion and is expected to return to hockey at some point, but there's no timeline as of yet.
"I anticipate Sid returning to hockey and playing hockey in the future... but before Sid goes back to play we're going to make sure he's 100 per cent recovered, no ifs ands or buts about it," Collins said.
He explained that Crosby's concussion mainly affected the vestibular system -- the portion of the brain that controls "space in motion" and is particularly important to professional athletes, especially in a fast-paced game such as hockey.
Collins said the prognosis is "excellent" that Crosby will not suffer any longterm effects from his injury, but emphasized the medical team will not permit him to return to the game until he is fully recovered.
Both Collins and Dr. Ted Carrick, Crosby's rehab specialist, said he has been able to reach the 90 per cent exertion level with no symptoms, but beyond that threshold the symptoms return.
"Yesterday, I assesed Sid... and I can tell you his data is the best we've seen, it is approaching normal limits. It is not there yet but it is something I was extremely encouraged by," Collins said.
Crosby said he is encouraged with the pace of his recovery but isn't going to take any chances.
"Maybe I could get by with 90 per cent, maybe I couldn't, but I'm not going to roll the dice on that," Crosby said.
When asked to describe the "fogginess" he experienced in the initial weeks of his injury, Crosby and his doctors said he was sensitive to noise, light, suffered from fatigue and found it difficult to concentrate.
About a month after the injury, Crosby said, he tried to attend a team meeting where video was being shown, but found it stressful and difficult to concentrate on the screen.
Eight months later, Crosby said he has made major progress and is now mainly dealing with headaches.
"And trust me that's a long way from where I was in January," Crosby said.