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Pittsburgh Penguins fire complete medical team

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The Penguins have fired their longtime team physician, Dr. Charles Burke.

Burke, 57, who oversaw center Sidney Crosby’s concussion treatment and Mario Lemieux’s career-long back problems, told the Tribune-Review he was informed July 10 that he and the team’s medical staff were being dismissed.

The team broke the news to him during its prospect camp at Consol Energy Center, Burke said.

The Penguins are replacing their medical team as part of a proposed move by 2014 to a hockey facility in Cranberry that will be in conjunction with UPMC, sources told the Tribune-Review.

The Penguins will use UPMC specialists to oversee medical treatment of personnel next season. There will not be one head team physician, but the Penguins will be only the second NHL team to have a physician traveling with them for every road game.

The arrangement between the team and medical provider is similar to the one the Steelers have with UPMC at their South Side practice facility. Under the proposal, the Penguins would have in-building access to UPMC equipment and medical personnel — and the facility will have specified training and treatment centers that are overseen by UPMC.

The Penguins and UPMC are awaiting approval from Cranberry officials to move forward with their plans.

Burke, an orthopedic surgeon, served as Penguins head physician since the 1988. He was also on the team’s medical staff from 1983-86.

In addition to Burke, EMS workers and vision and dental specialists who worked for the Penguins also were dismissed.

Burke twice cleared Crosby to return to play last season, but Crosby has played in only 63 regular-season games dating to January 2011, when he suffered his concussion.

Crosby sought the outside opinion of several other concussion specialists during his treatment, including physicians in California and Philadelphia.

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I think this was pretty much what they needed to do...I mean how could they diagnosed Crosby's injury as a concussion wrongly TWICE...and to find out a year later that the problems were coming from his neck area (i think?) and not solely from concussion symptoms...

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The Penguins today named Christopher Harner, president of the American Orthepaedic Society for Sports Medicine, as the team's new head team physician.

He succeeds Charles "Chip" Burke, who was with the team for 24 years.

Although Burke had come under criticism in relation to star center Sidney Crosby's medical treatment for a concussion and neck injury, the Penguins said in a statement that the switch is "part of an overall restructuring of the Penguins' medical program -- a transition spurred by the recent announcement of the new UPMC performance training center and practice rink in Cranberry."

That facility is scheduled to open in 2014 and players will have access there to UPMC doctors in more than 15 specialties.

Harner or one of two others now on the team staff -- associate team physician Tanya Hagen and assistant team physician Dharmesh Vyas -- will travel to all Penguins road games.

In November, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was deemed OK by Canadiens medical staff to return to a game in Montreal after taking a hit to the head. Letang scored the winning goal in overtime, but subsequently was diagnosed with a concussion.

Harner is one of the founders of the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

"We also would like to thank Dr. Charles Burke, who has been such an integral part of the Penguins' medical team over the past 24 years," Penguins president and chief executive officer David Morehouse said in the team's statement. "We appreciate all the outstanding services provided by Dr. Burke and his team of specialists and wish them the best in the future."

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I wouldn't mind firing our medical staff. For real. Watching our trainers letting Mason Raymond walk off of the ice with a broken back still makes me sick.

Agreed. That could have turned out disastrous. Always err on the side of caution - that would be my approach.

I think this move by the Pens has less to do with the medical team's handling of Crosby and more to do with the Pens new deal with UPMC.

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