This article is part of our Injury Analysis series.
The Tampa Bay tight end was not able to make his return to New England in the team's win over the Patriots. Gronk was sidelined by a significant rib injury sustained in Week 3. The final diagnosis was multiple rib contusions, including at least one fracture, and a punctured lung. I have detailed rib injuries multiple times this season as they appear to be this year's "trendy" ailment. However, very few of these issues have included underlying organ damage.
The lungs sit below the rib cage and are integral to breathing. The pair of organs is protected by the ribs and a double-layered membrane known as the pleura. However, even these various lines of protection can fail if a high enough force is applied, like with a direct blow and/or a perforation. Occasionally when a rib breaks, it is forced backward through the pleura. Since the fluid-filled pleura helps maintain the pressure of the cavity, the involved lung collapses as air makes its way into the area. This is clinically known as a pneumothorax and results in difficulty breathing and pain.
While any injury involving a vital organ should be considered serious, a collapsed lung often heals nicely. Oddly enough, Gronk does have a history of lung injuries, having suffered a pulmonary contusion (bruised lung) during the 2016 season. He missed just one game following that incident but is expected to miss at least one more week recovering with a Week 6 return likely. In the meantime, Cameron