Primeau, doc­tors ques­tion whether Crosby should re­turn af­ter fourth con­cus­sion

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY GRE­GORY STRONG

Hav­ing suf­fered at least four con­cus­sions him­self, for­mer NHL for­ward Keith Primeau has a good idea of what in­jured Pitts­burgh Pen­guins su­per­star Sid­ney Crosby is go­ing through.

Head in­juries even­tu­ally forced Primeau from the game in 2006. He had tried for over a year to get back in the Philadel­phia Fly­ers lineup but was even­tu­ally told that it would be best if he stopped play­ing.

Primeau re­tired a month later.

“If I knew then what I know now, the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion would have been for me to call it quits ear­lier,” Primeau said Wed­nes­day. “But there was no chance that I was ever go­ing to do that. How do you con­vince some­body? You’re play­ing a lit­tle bit of Rus­sian roulette.”

Crosby suf­fered what’s be­lieved to be the fourth con­cus­sion of his ca­reer Mon­day night against the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals. His re­turn date is un­cer­tain.

The time may be ap­proach­ing, doc­tors sug­gested Wed­nes­day, for Crosby to take a hard look at not when — but if — he should re­turn to the game.

“When there have been mul­ti­ple con­cus­sions, the chance of hav­ing per­sist­ing symp­toms goes up ter­rif­i­cally,” said Dr. Charles Ta­tor, the di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian Con­cus­sion Cen­tre at Toronto West­ern Hospi­tal. “So we’re es­pe­cially care­ful about help­ing peo­ple avoid fur­ther con­cus­sions.

“If he were an am­a­teur, we would prob­a­bly tell him to hang up his skates.”

Crosby was out of ac­tion for al­most a year af­ter suf­fer­ing a pair of head in­juries in early 2011. He suf­fered an­other con­cus­sion last Oc­to­ber but only missed two weeks of ac­tion.

“Ev­ery­body heals dif­fer­ently, no two con­cus­sions are the same,” Primeau told The Cana­dian Press from his home near Philadel­phia. “There’s just so many vari­ables that go into the de­ci­sion mak­ing (of whether to re­turn). When I look at some­body like Sid­ney who has had four con­cus­sions, I im­me­di­ately go to, ‘What are you wait­ing for?”’

Dr. Paul Ech­lin, a pri­mary care sports medicine spe­cial­ist in Burling­ton, Ont., and past chair of the Lon­don Hockey Con­cus­sion Sum­mit, said a fourth con­cus­sion is very con­cern­ing. At that point, Ech­lin said, long-term ef­fects need to be con­sid­ered.

“This is a young man’s life ... this is a hu­man is­sue,” he said. “It’s not about whether the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins ad­vance in the play­offs or what the matchups are.”

It’s un­clear whether Crosby will be able to re­turn for the sec­ond-round se­ries or at any point in the post-sea­son.

An­other big prob­lem, Ta­tor noted, is that many play­ers suf­fer knocks to the head in their younger days and don’t count it as a con­cus­sion or head in­jury. For high-col­li­sion sports, he’ll of­ten take the num­ber of con­cus­sions a player has said they’ve had and dou­ble it.

“The most im­por­tant thing is the like­li­hood of re­cov­ery be­cause the like­li­hood of re­cov­ery goes down as the num­ber (of con­cus­sions) goes up,” Ta­tor said. “There are lots of play­ers who have had to hang up their skates or hang up their cleats be­cause they didn’t ever get over them.”

Mak­ing things even tougher for Crosby is that his lat­est in­jury came in the heat of a play­off se­ries against an archri­val. Primeau said per­sonal pride can sometimes get in the way of clear de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

“You feel like you’re against the odds or you’re beat­ing the odds,” he said. “In re­al­ity you don’t have the abil­ity to look at the full pic­ture.”

Primeau’s ad­vice to any player is to lis­ten to your body and con­sider long-term health. But that doesn’t make the de­ci­sion on a player’s fu­ture in the sport any eas­ier.

“You’re tak­ing a part of who you are and sug­gest­ing that maybe that might be the end,” Primeau re­called about his de­ci­sion to re­tire. “It’s a very try­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to say the least.”

Crosby, 29, led the NHL with 44 goals this sea­son and was re­cently named a fi­nal­ist for the Hart Tro­phy. He had 11 points in eight play­off games be­fore go­ing down.

CP PHOTO

Pitts­burgh Pen­guins’ Sid­ney Crosby lies on the ice af­ter tak­ing a hit from Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ Matt Niska­nen dur­ing Game 3 in an NHL Stan­ley Cup Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal game against the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals in Pitts­burgh on Mon­day.

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