PITTSBURGH—A team of specialists helping Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby to recover from multiple concussions announced Thursday that the All-Star has dramatically improved his ability to hide symptoms of his traumatic brain injuries from doctors, trainers, and teammates.

“After a year and a half of slow progress, watching Sidney even pretend to be symptom-free is a major step forward,” said concussion expert Dr. Michael Collins, speculating that Crosby may even be back to pre-2011 form in terms of his ability to conceal his cognitive issues from those around him. “Lately what we’re seeing from him is the capacity to recognize that what he’s experiencing is a result of his multiple concussions, and that if he exhibits those symptoms to anybody around him, they won’t let him play more hockey. It’s really quite encouraging.”

Personal trainer Andy O’Brien said that in the past month alone he has witnessed Crosby on several occasions pretending he had to go to the bathroom whenever bright lights or loud sounds triggered the symptoms of his concussions. O’Brien also confirmed the former NHL MVP has shifted from expressing grievances about neck pains to complaining about a new pillow and how it must be making him sleep weird.

In addition, O’Brien said, Crosby has learned to disguise lapses in memory by no longer addressing doctors, family, or friends by their first names.

“He’s mostly calling everybody ‘dude,’ ‘buddy,’ or ‘my man,’” O’Brien said. “I can’t even tell you how promising that is after the random guessing we used to see from him just six or seven months ago. It’s astonishing that he doesn’t struggle to recall the word for a simple noun anymore. He just says ‘that.’”

“I hope his inner-ear ache goes away soon, though,” he added. “He’s been complaining about that for weeks.”

Crosby must periodically pass a series of cognitive tests in order to receive medical clearance to play in the NHL this season, and the neurologists administering his screenings said they had discovered notable signs of symptom-hiding improvement. One physician observed that the Penguins captain used to stare blankly into space when he didn’t know the answer to a question, but has now learned to look longingly at the doctors until they help him arrive at the correct solution.

“Everything we’re hearing from doctors makes us all the more excited about having signed Sidney to a long-term contract extension this summer,” said Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, adding that he’s had several recent conversations with Crosby in which the forward nodded along and muttered agreeably enough to convincingly suggest he was feeling symptom-free. “We’re confident he can continue pretending to have the wherewithal to be our team captain well into the future.”

Citing the lucrative contract extension and Thursday’s upgrading of Crosby’s condition, reporters pressed the team of doctors on whether the Penguins star was likely to return to his old playing form this season.

“Oh, we’re sorry, maybe we should have said this up front, but there is no way in hell that man should ever play professional hockey again,” Dr. Collins said. “Are you kidding me? He can walk and talk all right, but hockey? No. Not even close.”