In the last 24 hours the hockey world has been set abuzz, not because of the All-Star game, but rather breaking news on the health of Sidney Crosby. A recent trip to a spine specialist found that he had cracked vertebrae in his neck, but that they had healed abnormally. Concussions and cracked vertebrae both produce similar symptoms, and the neck injuries can lead to false positives in concussion tests. The treatment of minor (compression) fractures of the neck vertebrae is most often a cervical collar or brace worn for six to eight weeks until the bone heals on its own. I don't recall ever seeing Sidney Crosby wearing a neck brace, and after the Steckle hit the only thing Sid complained about was a sore neck. He had not shown any concussion symptoms, hence why he was allowed to continue playing, leading to the Headman hit.
So what if Sidney Crosby never had a serious concussion? What if he has been failing concussion tests because of a neck injury that was never properly treated? I'm sure that based on the amount of healing they can approximate when the neck injury happened, and either they did the proper test and treatment or they didn't. My conspiracy theory is purely speculation about a possible scenario, and we will surely find out more information on this story in the coming days. Was Crosby misdiagnosed this entire time? At this point it is plausible. Had they wrapped him in a cervical collar for two months, would he have been good to go in the playoffs last year and fully healthy this year?
Last season when Chara smashed Pacioretty into the wall, he was diagnosed with both a concussion and cracked vertebrae. Diagnosed and treated properly, Max still missed the rest of the season, but returned full strength in October and has been having a strong season without incident (unless you count his vicious head shot on Kris Letang, but those games he missed due to suspension). Pacioretty has been playing even better than he had been before the injury. It is possible that the Penguins doctors dropped the ball on this one and Sid has unnecessarily missed most of the 2011/12 season. Possible, if not probable.
This is my conspiracy theory. I'll find out if I'm right soon enough. The next question is what are the long term health implications to abnormally healed neck bones?
UPDATE (Jan 31/2012): Word today is that there is no vertebrae crack, only a soft tissue injury to the neck. This seems like good news because the soft tissue injury can still lead to false positives on concussion tests. All's well right? It doesn't make sense to Bob MacKenzie, who says that treatment for soft tissue injury is standard protocol in regular concussion treatments, ergo Sid should have been receiving treatment for this the entire time.