PITTSBURGH - Now that doctors on both coasts have isolated Sidney Crosby's injury, the healing process can begin, both with the superstar's neck and the behind-the-scenes differences on the origin of the problem.
Crosby and Penguins general manager Ray Shero put on a united front on Tuesday at the Consol Energy Center after an independent specialist said Crosby is suffering from a soft tissue injury. Dr. Alexander Vaccaro, spinal trauma expert at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, found no evidence of a past or present neck fracture, a fear that arose during all-star weekend.
Crosby joked he spent the whole break chained to MRI equipment, but was relieved to say rumours of him shutting it down for the season are greatly exaggerated.
That he went so far from the Pens' medical team to seek second and third opinions before everyone settled on Monday's review with Vaccaro, however, was taken as a sign of dissatisfaction with the home team.
"The more information you get, the better," said Crosby. "They (the team) have been more than encouraging, but there aren't a lot of answers with this stuff.
"That's always going to be the case (dealing with differing opinions) and that's something that I've learned through this process. That's not because of any other reason than people want to help and they're giving their opinion to help. Mario (Lemieux) has always said: 'Whatever you need, we're there for you.'
"The biggest thing to take out of this is that it is something I can work on. It's a team effort and everyone obviously has my well-being in mind."
Los Angeles-based Dr. Charles Bray first diagnosed the neck injury. He gave Crosby an injection to alleviate swelling in the C1 and C2 joints at the top of the neck and further recovery is now in the hands of therapists.
"I hope that it's a one-time thing," Crosby said of the injection. "I'd rather not have to do that, to be honest with you. I'd rather get this worked on here, get rid of the swelling. That's the plan."
As is the case with some players suffering concussion-like symptoms around the league, neck issues can be mistaken for neurological symptoms and concussions.
"I'm not a doctor," Crosby reminded at one point as the dicussion got technical.
Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, Penguins owner Lemieux, and CEO David Morehouse joined Crosby in Philadelphia on Monday, where Vaccaro reviewed the pictures taken by Bray. As to when the neck injury occurred in the past 13 months, either the original hit on Crosby during the 2011 Winter Classic, the blow a couple of days later from Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay, or the impact of two checks in the December game during Crosby's aborted comeback, no one was willing to speculate.
"It's been a real education over the last year with this injury," Shero said. "It's a frustrating injury and you try to rule out all of these things. It's an injury that you don't have a lot of answers for at some point."
Crosby said his balance has been mostly steady the past couple of days on ice.