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Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Updated: July 24, 1:02 PM ET
Straka should be ready for start of training camp

Associated Press

Martin Straka

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Martin Straka, who missed most of last season after twice breaking his right leg, cracked a vertebra in his back during a weightlifting accident Monday in the Czech Republic.

Straka, the NHL's fourth-leading scorer in 2000-01, will remain in a Czech hospital until doctors have determined a course of action. His status for the start of training camp in September is uncertain.

"I'm already thinking about hockey, which is good, but I don't know about anything right now. The doctors are saying a lot of good things, but I think it's a little more serious than what they're telling me right now,'' Straka told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a telephone interview.

The Penguins' team physician, Charles Burke, is communicating with medical professionals in Straka's hometown of Plzen, where he is hospitalized.

Straka and teammate Milan Kraft were lifting weights on a machine when the 375-pound apparatus slid on a carpet and fell on him, trapping him and preventing him from breathing. Straka briefly lost feeling in his extremities

The preliminary diagnosis is the vertebra, in the middle portion of his spine, had one of its two wing-shaped exterior pieces chipped. Ligament damage in that area is apparently causing Straka the most discomfort.

Such an injury usually takes six weeks to two months to heal, although the extent of the ligament damage could increase that time. The Penguins open training camp on Sept. 12 and the regular season on Oct. 10.

Straka had a career-high 95 points in 2000-01, Mario Lemieux's comeback season with the team, but was limited to 13 games last season because of a twice-broken right leg and a fractured orbital above his left eye.

Straka was planning to return to the ice on July 29 for the first time since breaking his leg again March 7.