(Reuters) - Confusion surrounding the health of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby intensified on Tuesday when the National Hockey League (NHL) team denied the Canadian had sustained a neck fracture.
Dr. Alexander Vaccaro, a spinal trauma expert at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia reviewed Crosby's recent medical tests and found no evidence of a past or present neck fracture, the team said in a statement.
Vaccaro, however, did verify that the NHL's most popular player, who has been sidelined for most of the last 13 months after sustaining a concussion, is suffering from a soft-tissue injury of the neck that could be causing neurological symptoms.
Doctors say the symptoms of a soft-tissue neck injury are similar to concussion symptoms, which have limited Crosby to just eight games since last January.
The findings appear to contradict a recent report that an examination by neurological spine specialist Dr. Robert Bray revealed Crosby suffered a neck injury that had since healed.
Crosby defended the team's handling of the injury and said they encouraging him to search out other opinions and treatment.
"There are not a lot of answers with this stuff," the former league most valuable player told a news conference in Pittsburgh to update his condition. "They (Penguins) have been more than encouraging when it came to seeking other opinions.
"Anyone going through this just tries to find something to lean on and make sure you are given all the information ... but the more information the better and that's what they have encouraged."
Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, along with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and chief operating officer David Morehouse traveled on Monday morning to Philadelphia, where Vaccaro reviewed a CAT scan and MRI taken last week by Dr. Bray in Los Angeles.
Bray has treated Crosby with an injection to alleviate swelling in the C1-2 joint of the neck and will be overseeing his progression with therapists.
Crosby, missed the final 41 games of last season and the first 20 games this season before making his long awaited return in November.
He scored 12 points in eight games but began experiencing concussion symptoms again in early December and has not played since December 5.
Crosby has resumed skating but offered no timetable for his return, however he was encouraged that he now has a diagnosis that allows him to get treatment rather than simply wait for the concussion like symptoms to end.
"The biggest thing to take from it is this is something I can work on, I can come in and get my neck worked on," said Crosby.
"There's a pretty big possibility that it could be causing some of the issues, so I hope that's the case and with some treatment it will improve and the end of it."
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue