PITTSBURGH - The Penguins, as part of a new initiative, will offer free baseline concussion testing and educational programs to youth hockey players in the region.
"Heads Up Pittsburgh" is a combination effort with the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and UPMC Sports Medicine, aimed at making more hockey families aware of concussions in the sport.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, of course, has not played since Jan. 5, and continues to recover from a concussion. Crosby last week returned to morning skates on gamedays, but will not return to game action in the regular season. He may be back in time for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin next week.
The tests will be conducted starting May 1 at UPMC Sports Medicine Center on Pittsburgh's South Side.
"We are very proud that it focuses on the health, safety and education of thousands of local youth hockey players," said Dave Soltesz, president of the Penguins Foundation.
Crosby was not immediately tested for a concussion after a hit in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic, because he wasn't experiencing any symptoms. About four days later, the symptoms were present. Crosby, still the team's leader with 32 goals and 66 points, hasn't played since.
"This time of year, about 20 percent of our concussion clinic patients are youth hockey players - both boys and girls," said Dr. Micky Collins of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
Soltesz said the program will be focused on the pee wee, bantam and midget levels of youth hockey, in addition to high school hockey, because those players are involved in body checking.
"This represents 6,000 players in those age groups in western Pennsylvania," he said. "And our goal is to test all of them."