Despite loss, injury would have ended Tebow’s season

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DENVER — Doctors say it’s nothing short of amazing that Tim Tebow was able to function, much less play professional football, after suffering a serious chest injury during the third quarter of the AFC divisional playoff game against New England Saturday.

Tebow tore cartilage on a rib where it attaches to his sternum, bruised a lung and had fluid buildup in the pleural space of his chest, according to a report by ESPN‘s Adam Schefter, citing an NFL source.

FOX31 Denver spoke with two doctors who treat professional and college athletes about Tebow’s injury and the pain he endured during the game.

“When you look at the type of force that is needed to fracture ribs, especially the first and second ribs, we’re usually talking about a motor vehicle accident or something that has a significant amount of force,” said Dr. Sourav Poddar, with CU Sports Medicine.

The severity of Tebow’s injury would have ended his season, regardless of the outcome of the game. “There would be very little chance of him being able to participate given the nature of the injury,” Poddar said.

Dr. Eric McCarty, a standout football player at the University of Colorado in the late 1980s, said Tebow’s reaction to the injury illustrates the quarterback’s character.

“It’s just a testament to how tough he is,” said McCarty, also with CU Sports Medicine. “And the kind of guy that he is and the competitor that he is.”

When asked to speculate why Tebow wasn’t pulled from the game, McCarty said Tebow “probably brushed them off because he didn’t want to have anybody tell him that he couldn’t play. He’s getting back out there.”

Tebow said as much immediately after the game.

“It’s just the physicality of playing football. Sometimes you get hit and it can hurt a little bit, but I wanted to play a lot of the game.”

But doctors say bruising a lung and tearing the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum sends a shock wave through the body that is excruciatingly painful.

“With a rib injury it hurts to just to take a breath, let alone throw a football,” said Poddar.

To give you an idea of the intensity of the pain, imagine having a nail driven into your lung, McCarty suggests.

“Every time you breathe that nail gets a little bit stuck in there and a little bit harder to breathe,” McCarty said. “I’m sure every breath he was taking it was very painful.”

Tebow’s injuries will not require surgery, though he faces up to 12 weeks of recovery.