Can Corey Crawford Stay Healthy?

As 2018 draws to a close, more than a few questions linger regarding Corey Crawford's fitness to return and play for the Chicago Blackhawks. But probably the only ones that matter are these: How soon can he come back? And, will Crawford stay healthy this time?

A Brief History of Crawford's Injuries

In a game on December 16, Crawford struck the back of his head on one of the goal post uprights, which caused a concussion. The injury prompted team management to remove him from play and put him on injured reserve. As of December 23, there seemed to be no immediate sign that his return was imminent, despite December 27 being the first day Crawford becomes eligible to leave injured reserve status.

Crawford's replacements, Collin Delia and Cam Ward, managed to keep away all but four goals over the span of three games. Crawford's absence can be felt, but his teammates are still excelling without him. This is, of course, and regrettably, not the first time Crawford has had to sit out games due to injuries. In fact, Blackhawks fans are probably tired of hearing about Crawford's brushes with serious injury — and the accompanying whipsaw of worry over his condition and rejoicing at his return.

Throughout the year, Crawford has been making himself story-worthy, beginning in January, when he suffered what was at the time referred to as an "unknown upper-body injury." This time, Crawford was placed on injured reserve. Details remained scarce, but some reporting indicated the goalie was experiencing symptoms similar to vertigo, which is an expected part of post-concussion syndrome, said some sports commentators, speculating on Crawford's condition.

Going back even further, Crawford has another "nonspecified injury" on the books from even earlier in 2017, and even missed 10 games in 2016 because of an emergency appendectomy operation.

Rehab, Recovery and Future Plans

In October, Crawford returned to active regular practices with the rest of the team — even if he remained not quite game-ready, according to coach Joel Quenneville, who reported the goalie was still experiencing some symptoms related to having sustained a concussion.

And Crawford, for his part, seemed fairly spirited and ready to enter the fray again. When asked whether he thought his teammates were taking it easy on him now that he'd returned to practices, he admitted: "I don't know. I hope not."

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Learning his limits again has been a significant part of Crawford's recovery after he had to sit out for essentially an entire season. Throughout October, Crawford has been carrying out his rehabilitation regimen in Chicago, including by making use of underwater treadmills and other equipment to gradually ramp up the difficulty of his workouts from mild back to challenging again. After nine months off the ice without fending off incoming pucks, Crawford has been partnering with coaches for 30-minute recovery sessions at a time, moving from low-intensity drills on the ice back to strenuous workouts with the team.

Hopefully, the wait won't be too much longer. Still, all of the latest news points to an official status of "out indefinitely," even if the return to regular team practices seems to indicate things might be on the upswing. Can Crawford stay healthy this time? Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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