How was Sidney Crosby cleared to return so quickly from latest concussion?

How was Sidney Crosby cleared to return so quickly from latest concussion?

WASHINGTON — Sidney Crosby went 320 days between games after his most significant concussion suffered in January 2011.

The Pittsburgh Penguins captain was out all of five days — and just one game — with his most recent as he skated more than 19 minutes in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Verizon Center on Saturday night.

“You just want to be back out there,” said Crosby, who had the secondary assist on Phil Kessel’s second period power-play goal. “I think you just go with the flow. You try to eliminate expectations as far as when you think you’re coming back. Playoffs, you want to be in the lineup.”

Like other sports, the NHL’s concussion protocol states “there is no mandatory period of time that a player must be withheld from play following a concussion.” Crosby took part in a full-contact practice on Friday and was was cleared to play Saturday. Teammate Conor Sheary was also back in the lineup after he was concussed in Game 3.

“The guideline is to treat every concussion on its own merits,” Chris Nowinski, executive director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, told USA TODAY Sports. “Each one is different. It’s not impossible to pass the protocol within five days. That doesn’t mean it’s a great idea. It doesn’t mean this isn’t a calculated risk.”

Research has shown that clinical recovery — when somebody no longer shows concussion-like symptoms — doesn’t always mean the…