PITTSBURGH - Sidney Crosby's concussion-like symptoms may not be due to a concussion after all.
The Pittsburgh Penguins star said Tuesday he's been diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury in his neck that mimics the symptoms of a concussion but is significantly more treatable.
"There's a pretty big possibility that I could be causing some of the issues and I hope that's the case," Crosby said. "I hope that it'll improve and that's hopefully the end of it."
Crosby and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux met with spinal trauma expert Dr. Alexander Vaccaro in Philadelphia on Monday to review a series of recent tests on the 2009 NHL MVP.
Vaccaro determined an MRI and CAT scan indicated no evidence of a fracture in Crosby's neck - as had been rumored during All-Star weekend - instead confirming a California doctor's diagnosis that Crosby is dealing with a soft-tissue injury.
The news came as a bit of relief to Crosby, who hasn't played since symptoms resurfaced following a loss to Boston on Dec. 5. He missed more than 10 months last year after taking head shots in consecutive games in January 2011. He returned on Nov. 21 and scored 12 points in eight games before going back on the injured list.
The tests could not determine when exactly the neck occurred.
"It's hard to pinpoint when this could have happened, whether this was an existing injury or it happened in one of the games in which he came back," general manager Ray Shero said.
Frustrated by his slow progress, Crosby traveled to Los Angeles last week to visit noted spine specialist Dr. Robert S. Bray, who examined Crosby and treated him with an injection to alleviate swelling in the neck.
Bray will oversee Crosby's progression with therapists while Crosby will continue to work closely with the Pittsburgh medical staff. He declined speculation of a rift between his camp and team physicians.
"There's not a lot of answers with this stuff," Crosby said. "They've been more than encouraging when going out and seeking other opinions."
The team called the injury "treatable," adding Crosby will return when he's symptom-free. Crosby skated with fellow injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres on Tuesday morning, though coach Dan Bylsma has stressed Crosby is nowhere close to being cleared for contact.
Crosby also met with chiropractic neurologist Dr. Ted Carrick in Atlanta earlier this month to deal with lingering motion issues, saying he was "happy" with his response to Carrick's treatment.
Just not enough to put any sort of timetable on a return, though he's hopeful the shot he received from Bray will not be required on a regular basis.
"It's something I'd rather not have to do to be honest with you," Crosby said. "I'd rather get work done here."
Crosby was vague on specific treatment but will focus on keeping his neck loose to help get rid of inflammation. Though he's skating, he claims he's "not where he wants to be." His plan remains to play whenever his body lets him, which could be sometime before the season ends.
The Penguins are just as optimistic.
"There has never been any indication from any doctor over the last year that he'd have to shut it down for the season, that he'd have to retire," Shero said. "We're going to find a way to get a handle on this and get him back on the ice as safely and quickly as possible."