On Sunday, Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis broke a bone in his right forearm when he absorbed the impact of a leaping Arizona Cardinals tight end Darren Fells. Hours later, he was celebrating a conference championship, even appearing on the podium with his teammates with his arm wrapped in a protective bandage. And Davis was all smiles, not just because his team went on to beat the Cardinals after his injury, but because as he said, he'll do "everything in [his] power to be ready to go" for Super Bowl 50 vs. the Denver Broncos.
But how realistic is Davis' expectation?
Actually, it's not just possible he'll play -- it's probable.
Davis was somewhat fortunate -- if one can call it that -- in that he broke just one bone in his forearm (the ulna), not both, making it a less complex injury. The break was on the main shaft of the bone, where it did not involve the elbow or wrist joints. The location of the fracture does not require that the wrist or elbow be immobilized in a cast.
The break that Davis suffered usually results from a direct blow to the bone, the kind that is seen when someone is defending themselves from an attacker. In an effort to ward off a hit to the head, the arm instinctively comes up with the ulna exposed, making it vulnerable to a forceful blow. In medical circles this is often referred to as a nightstick fracture.
Davis underwent surgery Monday to insert a metal plate to stabilize the fracture. While the bone itself will require at least six weeks to heal, with some extra external protection on his forearm, Davis should be able to take the field. Panthers head athletic trainer and physical therapist Ryan Vermillion constructed a carbon graphite shell for former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith's forearm when he returned to action after a similar injury. He will do so again for Davis, who has already initiated his post-operative rehabilitation.
Will he have discomfort? Probably. Will he have full strength in his arm? Probably not. Might he suffer another injury? He might. But this is not a player who should be underestimated when it comes to toughness. After all, he went through three consecutive ACL rehabilitation efforts before returning in 2012 and notching more than 100 tackles. And, oh, by the way, he has had at least 100 tackles in each of the three years since.
For Davis, who has already had his share of physical hurdles to overcome and has done so with flying colors, the reward of playing in two weeks no doubt exceeds the relative risk. This is, after all, the Super Bowl.