Why Concussion Spotters Couldn’t Pull Sidney Crosby From Game 6 Vs. Capitals


If you watched Game 6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals’ second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series Monday, you could have guessed that Pens captain Sidney Crosby might have sustained a concussion after going head-first into the boards.

But even though it was obvious Crosby should have been tested, there was nothing NHL concussion spotters could have done about it. Under the NHL’s concussion policy, a collision with the ice or a collision with another player are considered “mechanisms of injury,” but a collision with the boards is not.

“Depending on the mechanism of injury, ‘slow to get up’ does not trigger mandatory removal,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “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.”

Co-founder and CEO of the Waltham, Mass.-based Concussion Legacy Foundation Chris Nowinski told USA TODAY that the NHL’s rule is “a poorly written policy that should be amended before the puck is dropped in another NHL game.”

“Any head contact is a possible mechanism of injury,” Nowinski said. “I can’t believe we have to say that in 2017.”

Daly added that spotters don’t have to take concussion history into account even though Crosby was diagnosed with one just a week earlier after Game 3. There’s also some confusion over what happened because Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby was never tested for a concussion, while the center himself said he passed concussion protocol.

The Capitals forced a Game 7 on Monday, and it’s set for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. There’s no word on whether Crosby will play.

Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images

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