By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) -If you think football players of old had a special degree of grit and toughness, look no further on the calendar than Sunday and at Broncos safety David Bruton, Jr.

Bruton played almost the entire game with a broken leg. Now that’s tough.

It turns out that when Bruton collided with teammate Aqib Talib with 1:58 left in the first quarter, he fractured his right fibula. Despite the pain from the fracture, Bruton stayed in, and ultimately was on the field for 95 total game snaps — 77 on defense, and 18 on special teams. That’s more than any other Bronco.

Fibula (courtesy Dr. Dave Hnida)

Fibula (courtesy Dr. Dave Hnida)

Bruton thought it was just a bad bruise, and with the secondary already decimated with injuries, played through with the broken leg, although the pain worsened as the game and the hits wore on.

By game’s end he needed to be helped off of the field by a teammate, but initial X-rays at the stadium were negative. When the pain worsened through the night, Bruton had an MRI today, which showed the fracture.

These fractures typically take 4-6 weeks to heal, and there’s a chance he could be placed on IR, Injured Reserve, ending his season. But Bruton says he will be back and ready to play before then, and there’s an outside chance he may be right. It all depends on the location and severity of the break.

RELATED: David Bruton Played Last 3 Quarters On Broken Leg

The fibula is one of two bones that make up your lower leg. It runs from the outside of the knee down the leg to form the outside bone of your ankle. It is considered a mainly “non-weight bearing bone” since the tibia or shinbone bears the brunt of your weight when you walk or run. The major stresses on the fibula take place when you try to cut and pivot — and that’s what Bruton said really were the painful movements during the game.

The fact that the fracture couldn’t be seen on the first set of X-rays suggest that it’s a small crack, rather than a through and through break — although the exact size of fracture and its location along the bone haven’t been disclosed — and these are important issues. The doctors and training staff may decide his season is, in fact, over despite his toughness.

So in the meantime, Bruton will have to stay off of the leg as the bone heals, and he may be casted or put in a boot through the course of treatment depending on the fracture type.

As for a return to play, that’s hard to say. But remember Bruton is just coming off a knee injury, and was told he’d miss 14-30 days. He played again within 11.

Addendum: Bruton may beat the injury, but cannot beat the schedule. The team needs depth in the secondary, and needs it stat. On Dec 22, Bruton was placed on season ending IR to make room on the roster for more depth, and to allow his leg to fully heal and rehab. A valiant try that fell short.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida

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