Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Did Pittsburgh Penguins Doctors Miss Sidney Crosby's Neck Injury?

**Update: News released today from the Penguins indicate that Crosby's injury is not fractured vertebrae but a soft tissue injury that may be aggravating his condition. He's now getting treatment for that.

If you're a doctor, this has got to be your biggest fear.  If you're a doctor who also happens to be a team physician/surgeon (which is typically a volunteer position), this is beyond your worst nightmare.

News emerged yesterday that Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who has been sidelined the better part of a year with concussion symptoms, also had an un-diagnosed injury to his neck.  Reports have not been detailed yet, but word is that Crosby had sustained fractures to his C1 and C2 vertebrae that have since healed.

That's pretty big news for a guy who most likely has had extensive testing by his Pittsburgh doctors over the past year.  Crosby was hit twice over the span of a week in late December, 2010 and early January, 2011, and was diagnosed with a concussion.  His symptoms took several months to abate, and it wasn't until late November that he was back playing in games again.

Of course, then he took yet another hit December 5 and his concussion symptoms returned.  Since then he's been all over the country to see various specialists about his head.  It wasn't until Tom Brady suggested to him, through certain channels, that he went to see this world-renowned spinal specialist, Dr. Bray, in Utah.

The fact that these spinal fractures are fully healed ones make me wonder when the injury occurred.  I'm not sure exactly when the fractures occurred (no one does), but it does seem to make more sense that they probably occurred last season when he was first injured.

Symptoms of those fractured cervical vertebrae could have complicated his recovery from concussions.  While I've never broken my neck, I have had chronic headaches due to neck spasms.  It took a year for my doctors to identify and figure out how to resolve the neck issues and headaches that I had, so I understand how a neck injury could affect Crosby on top of his concussion.

This is a stunning revelation. To give an example, this would be like Peyton Manning finding out that he tore a tendon in his throwing arm at the same time he started having his neck symptoms and not finding out until now.  Although his tendon had healed, how much faster could he have recovered had this second injury been identified and treated?

Since the neck fractures are completely healed, Crosby's concussion recovery is all he has to worry about. I'm not sure what else this news about healed fractures can accomplish other than to cast doubts onto the team doctors for the Penguins.

No comments: