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I'm Not Sure Sidney Crosby's Brain Is OK

Gene J. Puskar/AP Images

Sidney Crosby says he was evaluated for (another) concussion after going headfirst into the boards. His coach says he wasn’t. He didn’t miss a shift. Someone here is lying, and someone—maybe multiple someones—is letting Crosby down.

This would be scary enough on its own:


It’s even worse coming just seven days after Crosby suffered a concussion in Game 3. Given his history with these—Crosby missed the lion’s share of two consecutive seasons after trying to play too early—we sensibly wrote him off for the rest of these playoffs. He was back after missing a single game.

And then, the play last night, where a barreling Crosby tripped over Braden Holtby’s stick and was nudged off-balance by contact with John Carlson. Nothing dirty there, but fairly terrifying and certainly deserving of a basic neurological exam, especially after Crosby was visible dazed heading back to the bench.

After the game, coach Mike Sullivan was asked if Crosby was evaluated for a concussion. “No,” Sullivan said. And then again: “No.”

Also after the game, in an interview that aired on the NHL Network, Crosby was asked if he was evaluated for a concussion. “Yep,” Crosby said. “Yeah. Pretty standard.”


If that evaluation happened, it didn’t take place immediately. Crosby didn’t leave the bench, and skated his next shift. If it was administered between periods, that’s a failure of the system; players aren’t supposed to be sent back out onto the ice until they’re cleared.

That the Penguins didn’t get Crosby checked out immediately is disappointing, but understandable—they don’t want to lose their best player in a potential clinching game. But that’s exactly why the NHL has instituted “independent” concussion spotters who have the power to order that a player be examined if they see a potential brain injury. Those spotters are in the arena and in a central office in New York watching the video feed. Yet everyone in the world saw Crosby go into the boards. Those concussion spotters didn’t do their jobs.


Bill Daly’s explanation for that is downright bizarre:

“Depending on the mechanism of injury, ‘slow to get up’ does not trigger mandatory removal,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told USA TODAY Sports. “The protocol has to be interpreted literally to mandate a removal. ‘Ice’ as compared to ‘boards’ is in there for a reason. It’s the result of a study on our actual experiences over a number of years. ‘Ice’ has been found to be a predictor of concussions — ‘boards’ has not been.”


So heads onto ice, bad; heads into boards, acceptable. Got it, NHL.

Crosby, meanwhile, insists he was fine:

“When you go in like that, it just kind of knocked the wind out of me,” Crosby said. “Kind of a fluky fall. Not one you want to take too often.”


Crosby is not fine. He has not exactly looked like himself since returning, but even he feels at 100 percent, his brain is now particularly susceptible to repeat trauma, with the effects—both short- and long-term—potentially being that much more debilitating. I really, really hope there’s no reason to be playing video of this hit in 20 years.

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