Penguins: No fracture for Sidney Crosby, but neck injury possible source of symptoms

Greg Wyshynski

One hour before the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, news broke that Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had an "abnormality" of the C1 and C2 vertebrae in his neck, discovered via an MRI while visiting a specialist in Utah.

One hour after the NHL All-Star Game, Crosby's agent Pat Brisson told the media that a neck injury discovered by Dr. Robert Bray in Los Angeles had "healed," but couldn't confirm if the vertebrae had indeed been fractured.

On Tuesday, another twist: The Penguins released a statement saying there was no fracture but that the root of Crosby's concussion-like symptoms might be traced to a neck injury.

From the Penguins:

An independent specialist contacted to review recent medical tests taken on Sidney Crosby found no evidence of a past or present neck fracture but verified that Crosby is suffering from a soft-tissue injury of the neck, that could be causing neurological symptoms.

Dr. Alexander Vaccaro is a spinal trauma expert at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and co-director of the Spinal Cord Center at Thomas Jefferson University. He is past president of the American Spinal Injury Association. Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, along with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and CEO David Morehouse traveled Monday morning to Philadelphia, where Vaccaro reviewed a CAT Scan and MRI taken last week by Dr. Robert S. Bray in Los Angeles. Bray diagnosed a neck injury.

Bray has treated Crosby with an injection to alleviate swelling in the C1-2 joint of the neck and will be overseeing his progression with therapists. Doctors say the symptoms of a soft-tissue neck injury are similar to concussion symptoms.

Vaccaro, Bray and UPMC doctors all agree that Crosby is safe, the injury is treatable, and he will return to action when he is symptom-free.

Crosby and GM Ray Shero spoke on the issue Tuesday afternoon. Crosby disclosed that he's been diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury in his neck that carries many of the same the symptoms as a concussion but is a great deal more treatable.

"There's a pretty big possibility that it could be causing some of the issues and I hope that's the case," Crosby said. "I hope that it'll improve and that's hopefully the end of it."

General Manager Ray Shero also weighed in on when, exactly, Crosby suffered the neck injury:

"It's hard to pinpoint when this could have happened, whether this was an existing injury or it happened in one of the games in which he came back," he said.

And, best of all, Shero also put an end to the doomsday punditry:

"There has never been any indication from any doctor over the last year that he'd have to shut it down for the season, that he'd have to retire," Shero said. "We're going to find a way to get a handle on this and get him back on the ice as safely and quickly as possible."

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