- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Look at your right hand. Close your eyes. Do you know where it is? Are you certain?

For months, Sidney Crosby was not.

While the rest of his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates spent the summer resting, working on their golf game and trying to get over a seven-game loss to Tampa Bay in the opening round of the playoffs, the game’s greatest player spent it searching for a way back to normalcy.

Two head shots within a week of each other last January ended the former MVP’s season, put his career in jeopardy and may have started a culture change in a sport where toughness, grit and “playing through it” are among the most prized commodities.

Entering his seventh NHL season, the 24-year-old franchise cornerstone didn’t set out to be the most public case study on the mysterious and sometimes mysteriously lingering effects of concussions. He simply wanted to feel better and get back to doing what he loved.

The road back has been more arduous than he ever possibly imagined when he was scratched out of the lineup following a game against Tampa Bay on Jan. 5 after experiencing what he’s since described as “fogginess.”

Months of rest, of tests, of travel, of quietly _ and not so quietly _ refuting what his camp has deemed as misinformation about his condition, his health, his future have followed.

The organization did its best to give Crosby some space. Coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero checked in occasionally. Teammates, both old and new, would text or call to talk about anything and everything but the state of Crosby’s head.

Penguins forward Jordan Staal says they texted about fishing. The words “vestibular system” _ which focuses on a person’s ability to balance and work within a given space, the system most affected by Crosby’s concussions _ never came up.

“I figured he was getting enough of it from everywhere else,” Staal said. “All that matters to us really is that he’s healthy. All that stuff you thought you heard, I didn’t pay any attention to it.”

Private by nature, the combination of Crosby’s injury and his urge to get away from things back home in Canada during the offseason only seemed to feed the frenzy.

He was retiring. He wasn’t retiring. He suffered a setback. He was skating at full speed. Each week seemed to bring a new rumor or theory.

Crosby remains polite but reserved when talking about the process, though he did spend more than 40 minutes last month addressing reporters while sitting alongside the two doctors who have overseen his rehabilitation.

Dr. Mickey Collins, a neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, likened Crosby to a Ferrari. Dr. Ted Carrick, who practices clinical neurology and whom Crosby turned to when things seemed to stall in midsummer, has seen so much progress that he likened it to Christmas.

How exactly did Crosby get to this point in his recovery? Well, that’s tricky. Unlike a muscle or a bone, there is no obvious physical evidence when you’re healed. The science of how to handle and treat the vestibular system is evolving.

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