After Sidney Crosby, no athlete of any age, no coach or parent, no team or league should ever again ignore the risks around concussions.
It is eight months since Mr. Crosby’s brain injury, and he is back at square one as a new season approaches. His team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, which either knows very little about concussions or imagines that nobody knows anything about them, announced on its website that Mr. Crosby exerted himself to 90 per cent in his summer workouts, began experiencing headaches and “altered his workouts accordingly.” In truth, current medical protocol is that a concussed athlete who has symptoms during training needs to go back to the beginning again.
Everyone in the National Hockey League and indeed at any level of any sport should watch the hit last January 1, when Mr. Crosby was first injured (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8cQxJvgeJA). It will be immediately obvious that a team, and a league, that could countenance putting its greatest player back into a game after such a devastating blow to the head without so much as even a cursory look by a doctor was in the Stone Age on concussions.
The injury occurred just before the second intermission; his team had time to think over whether to pull him from the game. The Penguins had every reason to protect their prize asset, but did not. Mr. Crosby went right back out. He also played in his team’s next game, and got hit in the head again. He has not played since.
Athletes throughout time have acted as if they were indestructible, and have pressed on so as not to let their team down. Countless coaches, and even parents, have made the same foolish decisions that the Penguins made. They have closed their eyes and hoped for the best.
Sidney Crosby, the greatest player of his generation, has a brain injury and is out indefinitely. That is where denial has brought the game of hockey. Nearly 40 years ago, Bobby Orr’s sore knees deprived the game of its most magnificent athlete. Today, Mr. Crosby’s brain, and his team’s reckless endangerment of him, may do the same. There’s a lesson in that for all athletes and those who care about them.