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Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby skates during practice in Sunrise, Fla., Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. Crosby's health issues may not be limited to his head. Media reports say that an MRI performed on Crosby by a specialist in Utah shows an abnormality with his C1 and C2 vertebrae. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Alan Diaz (Alan Diaz/AP/CP)
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby skates during practice in Sunrise, Fla., Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. Crosby's health issues may not be limited to his head. Media reports say that an MRI performed on Crosby by a specialist in Utah shows an abnormality with his C1 and C2 vertebrae. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Alan Diaz (Alan Diaz/AP/CP)

Robert MacLeod

Is it time for Sidney Crosby to retire? Add to ...

Sid the Kid, meet Sid the Ambassador.

Hockey Ambassador. Concussion ambassador.

No skating involved.

Nobody trying to leave an imprint of your body in the boards.

Just one very influential hockey superstar deciding enough is enough, step away from it all with his faculties still in place.

And instead of risking life and limb to continue to try and play a sport that has already extracted an immeasurable toll, become the chief spokesperson and poster boy for the one issue that is threatening to lay to waste Canada’s national obsession.

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Concussions.

Sidney Crosby, the National Hockey League’s most recognizable star, has suffered one – probably more than one – and it may be time for him to retire. At age 24.

Retirement, no matter how distasteful it may seem to the NHL and to hockey fans in general, is an option that must be seriously considered, according to some in the medical community.

Over lunch recently with a respected Toronto sports orthopedic surgeon that point was driven home repeatedly – that Crosby has no choice but to retire, that his efforts to resume his spectacular playing career after suffering a concussion early in the NHL season in 2011, aren’t worth the risk.

“Crosby would be far better off quitting the game and becoming the chief spokesperson for concussions and speaking out against head shots in the game,” said the doctor. “He is taking a huge gamble with his health by trying to come back.

“He has nothing left to prove in the game. And imagine the impact he would have, especially to younger kids, by getting out now. That alone would force the NHL to take serious steps to clean up its act.”

When it comes to his playing career, Crosby has done it all.

The first overall pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005, the Halifax native became the only teenager to win a scoring title in any major North American sports league in his second season at age 19.

He has scored 50 goals in a season, won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins, and tallied the gold medal overtime winner for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

But his career has been in a tailspin ever since he was clocked by David Steckel during the 2011 Winter Classic game.

Crosby has played in just eight games since and over the weekend his situation got even murkier when it was revealed that at some point Crosby had also suffered a previously undiagnosed neck injury in addition to the concussion, a crack in the C1-C2 vertebrae.

That’s the same bone that breaks when a person is hanged.

The doctor said, depending on when that injury happened, Crosby was perhaps fortunate that his concussion symptoms continued and kept him off the ice where another body check might have led to paralysis or perhaps even death.

Those of a certain age will remember Bobby Orr’s valiant attempt to postpone the inevitable, signing with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1976 for one last comeback attempt after his aching knees derailed his fabulous career in Boston with the Bruins.

Over the next three years, Orr only managed to play 26 games before calling it quits and to many it never seemed quite right how his career came to an end.

Here’s hoping that Crosby can at least leave on his own terms, with his head on straight.

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