The NHL’s concussion protocols are under fire after Sydney Crosby took a nasty spill into the boards and was not removed from the game for evaluation.
The incident came late in the first period of the Penguins’ Game 6 loss and just one game after Crosby returned from missing a game due to a concussion suffered earlier in the series.
Despite his previous concussion, and despite looking dazed after the fall, the NHL’s concussion “spotters” – people in New York who watch all games and have the authority to remove a player from action to be evaluated for a concussion – did not remove Crosby from the game. Crosby finished the period with his teammates and was back on the ice to start the second period.
Here is the play, via Sportsnet:
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports spoke with Chris Nowinski from the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a group committed to “protecting athletes” and “solving the concussion crisis.” Nowinski called the Crosby play “nearly the nightmare scenario’ concussion experts worry about.”
The concern is that Crosby’s brain may not have fully healed from the previous concussion and that could have put him in a dangerous situation in Game 6.
“This was nearly the nightmare scenario experts worry about,” Nowinski told Wyshynski. “Playing so soon after a concussion, he may have been a step slower, or made a bad split-second decision, or was just unlucky, and he nearly had a catastrophic neck or head injury.”
Nowinski went on to say that Crosby probably should have been evaluated.
“He certainly appeared to meet the criteria for a full evaluation, as he held his head with both hands and didn’t immediately attempt to stand back up,” Nowinski said. “I’m not comfortable that he was allowed to continue playing.”
Here is the replay:
The NHL released a statement on Tuesday saying that the spotters did not have the authority to pull Crosby because this particular scenario is not included in their guidelines as a “mechanism of injury.”
“Depending on the mechanism of injury, ‘slow to get up’ does not trigger mandatory removal,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told USA TODAY Sports. “The protocol has to be interpreted literally to mandate a removal. ‘Ice’ as compared to ‘boards’ is in there for a reason. It’s the result of a study on our actual experiences over a number of years. ‘Ice’ has been found to be a predictor of concussions — ‘boards’ has not been.”
After the game, Crosby said he was evaluated for a concussion, saying, “Yep. Yeah. Pretty standard.”
However, when Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was asked if he was concerned during the game and if Crosby had been evaluated, he simply answered “No” to both questions.
It would seem the NHL’s concussion protocols still have some issues to resolve.