Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow suffered numerous injuries during Saturday night's playoff game against the New England Patriots, including torn cartilage, a bruised lung and fluid in the cavity surrounding one of his lungs, reports ESPN.
The damage was done, an NFL source told the sports network, during a hit Tebow took after throwing a pass.
The Broncos' spokesman didn't reveal the exact nature of Tebow's injuries, citing team policy, but did say the quarterback was in a lot of pain at the end of the game. Because of the pain, he had trouble sleeping and had an MRI earlier this week.
The source said Tebow's injuries will not affect his offseason training regimen, and Tebow said in an interview he "can't wait to get to work and get better."
Without knowing precisely what happened to Tebow, it's difficult to say what consequences staying in the game after being hit could have had.
But in general, doctors say a blow to the chest or abdomen can sometimes worsen over time, even if the damage seems minimal at first.
"These kind of injuries can evolve over time, and it may not cause trouble until later. There may be pain that gets worse or other symptoms," said Dr. John DiFiori, chief of the division of sports medicine in the department of family medicine at UCLA. DiFiori was not referring to Tebow's injuries and spoke of athletic injuries in general.
Athletes at all levels often play through injuries, either because they don't seem that bad or because it's in their nature.
"They will push through and feel that as long as they can make a difference to their team, they'll be out there. In the heat of competition, they may not perceive their injuries as being significant," said DiFiori.
Concussions are among the most commonly underreported sports-related injuries.
"People may not even know they have a concussion. They can happen after a blow to the body that causes a rotational force to the head," he said.
But awareness of the dangers of concussions and other sports injuries is on the rise, he added. More and more athletes recognize the symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and slurred speech, and are seeking medical attention.
Despite broader knowledge of the consequences of sports injuries, athletes still need to be reminded about not pushing their bodies beyond their physical capabilities after getting hurt.
"Our job as sports medicine specialists is to communicate when it's safe to return to playing. Athletes are often so committed to getting back that they take shortcuts, and they need to be carefully counseled," DiFiori said.