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Neurosurgeon: Neck Fractures Can Go Undetected Initially

(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

Mary Robb Jackson Mary Robb Jackson
Mary Robb Jackson joined KDKA-TV as a general assignment reporter in...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — And all this time we were worried about what was going on inside Sidney Crosby’s skull.

When Crosby took that hit to the head in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day 2011, he complained of “soreness in his neck.”

But that diagnosis soon focused on serious symptoms from a concussion lingering on for 10 months.

Crosby didn’t last long after his return in November – again suffering concussion-like symptoms.

Now, in addition to the concussion, a visit to Beverly Hills neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Bray, Jr., by Crosby appears to confirm that the hockey phenom may have suffered a broken neck – two fractured vertebra – numbers C1 and C2 – bones that Dr. Bray report as fully-healed.

“Those are the two vertebrae that really govern how much motion you have for your head to move about and to look,” Dr. Tom Muzzonigro, an orthopedic surgeon at Butler Health Systems, said.

He added that it is also possible for neck fractures to go undetected by doctors initially, even using scans and x-rays.

“In that case it could have been a subtle fracture that you couldn’t have seen,” Dr. Muzzonigro said.

During the most recent scan, it’s likely that the subtle breaks became visible because of the healing process itself.

“And that would show metabolically active bone which would show healing or bone mass healed,” Dr. Muzzonigro explained.

Athletes like Crosby do return to the game once concussion symptoms are resolved and bones are healed along with the ligaments that support them.

“They can if the injury heals and they rehabilitate properly and they no longer have symptoms so it’s safe to return to the ice,” he said.

Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, was flying back to California from the NHL All-Star Game and was unavailable for comment.

Tom McMillan of the Pittsburgh Penguins would only refer to the team’s most recent statement that there would be no more comment until additional medical opinions are reviewed.

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