Will Sidney Crosby’s concussion history led to an early retirement?
This past weekend, the Pittsburgh Penguins revealed that star forward Sidney Crosby was once again diagnosed with a concussion, prompting many to wonder not merely about a timeline for Crosby’s return to the NHL but more seriously about whether this concussion could be “the one” – the final blow to cut short the career of arguably the greatest player of his generation.
If we look to hockey history, the signs are not encouraging, as players like Crosby with a prior history of concussion are far more likely be forced into premature retirement by concussion symptoms due to a final blow to the head.
On October, 2005, Philadelphia Flyers centre Keith Primeau was levelled by an elbow to the jaw from Montreal Canadiens’ forward Alexander Perezhogin. The hit caused Primeau to miss the rest of the 2005-06 season and to announce his retirement at training camp in September, 2006, at the age of 34. Over his 15-year NHL career, Primeau suffered four documented concussions, including one in February, 2004, which caused him to miss 21 games over the final stretch of the regular season.
Adam Deadmarsh spent 10 years in the NHL and was part of the 1996 Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche team, along with participating in two sojourns with the United States’ Olympic team. At the age of 31, Deadmarsh announced his retirement in September, 2005, after being unable to recover from a concussion received two years prior in December, 2002. It had been Deadmarsh’s second serious concussion after earlier being knocked unconscious during a November, 2000, fight with the Vancouver Canucks’ Ed Jovanovski.
Pat Lafontaine was 33 years old when he announced his retirement after 15 years as one of the NHL’s most gifted scorers, once setting the record for points in a season by an American-born player. In March of 1997, Lafontaine suffered a head-on collision with New York Rangers teammate Mike Keane, resulting in his sixth diagnosed concussion and the end of his NHL career.
These are just a few of the many, but how does Sidney Crosby’s story match up to those of Primeau, Deadmarsh, Lafontaine and many others?
At the age of 29, Crosby is entering the 12th year of his NHL career. Crosby has suffered two major bouts of concussion symptoms so far. In January, 2011, Crosby was hit in two consecutive games, causing him to miss the rest of the regular season and 20 games of the following year. Crosby returned in November of 2011 to play eight games before again being sidelined for another three months with concussion-like symptoms, likely due to a hit by the Boston Bruins’ David Krejci. Last week’s incident, apparently occurring as a result of, in Crosby’s words, getting “tangled up” with other players during practice, would mark Crosby’s third concussive event.
As with previous occurrences, everyone is now hoping that Crosby will get better, that he will return healthy and symptom free to play for many seasons to come. The latest reports are that Crosby was able to take a practice skate on Tuesday morning and is feeling optimistic about a full recovery.