Sidney Crosby’s health has been in the news a lot recently. More than he’d like it to be, I’m sure. Some news outlets have him missing the start of the 2011-2012 season (due to his ongoing concussion troubles), while others expect to see him play in the Pittsburgh Penguin’s season opener come early October.
Full disclosure: I’ve never had a concussion. I don’t think.
While it’s refreshing to hear everyone associated with the Nonchalant Headshot League putting Crosby’s health ahead of the needs of the Penguins or the league, it’s kind of a given. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great, but if we’re being honest, the league can’t afford to screw this up. Not this one. This is the highest profile concussion the league has ever had. (In a morbidly ironic way, this injury was sustained in the highest profile regular season game last year too. Talk about bad timing.) The NHL needs to treat this one properly, but to their credit, the Penguins have done just that, and the league has followed suit.
That’s the thing. We’re talking about Sidney Crosby, the world’s best hockey player. Not some “replaceable” third line grinder. (I say replaceable respectfully, of course. But there will always be other capable players waiting for their chance to prove themselves.)
From a public perception standpoint, the league can’t tread carefully enough. Crosby is the league’s top ambassador and biggest asset. As much as he means to the Penguins, he means more to the game itself. If he needs to take a year to recover, so be it. Give him the full year. Even then there’s no guarantees he’ll be any better than he was last week. Crappy. But at least Crosby’s fortunate enough to have that luxury.
Going back to the third line grinder who isn’t the best player in the world, well, think any team will be as lenient? Of course not. Obviously that player knows it too. Hell, everyone does. He knows his role can be replaced in a heartbeat with a number of other, capable players. Oh, God. I can only imagine trying to play hockey, in the most skilled league in the world, with lingering concussion symptoms.
So that makes me wonder, for all the non-stars or role players that have gone down with concussions over the last few years, how many of them have returned too quickly, when they weren’t completely healthy?
Maybe Crosby’s concussion is more severe than any other concussion ever sustained, ever. Maybe Crosby is more susceptible to concussions than other players. Maybe Crosby’s a huge pussy. I’m being trite. But even if all those ‘maybes’ are true (and that’s very doubtful), it still doesn’t discard the fact that many players probably aren’t completely concussion and symptom free when returning to on-ice action. It’s hard to fathom that Crosby is the only guy to feel symptoms this long after the original incident. Since I’m the guy who’s never had a concussion (again, I think), Crosby’s ongoing troubles have been a real eye opener for me. Concussions are even more serious than we all thought! (Imagine that!) Maybe teams are rushing players back onto the ice too soon. Or maybe the players rushing themselves for fear that their roster spot is in danger. As we all know, brain injuries aren’t like a banged up knee that heals in exactly 4-6 weeks like the doctor forecasted.
Think back to all the concussions we saw last year and ask yourself if all those players who returned to play were totally symptom free… That Crosby is the only player to have lingering effects, etc… I think we all know this probably isn’t the case. To be frank, that scares the shit out of me.
Stay classy, Sidney Crosby and every other player who’s gone down with a concussion recently.