CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In last Friday's preseason game against New England, Cam Newton's rib took a beating. First diagnosed as a back contusion, we now know that he's dealing with a hairline rib fracture.

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That happened on August 22, just 16 days before the regular season opener at Tampa Bay.

"I imagine in that first game, he'll have some issues to deal with," said Dr. James Fleischli.

Fleischli is an orthopedic surgeon and while he isn't treating Cam's injury, he's dealt with plenty of athletes suffering from the same thing in the past.

"It hurts a lot," Fleischli said. "Pain is the main thing that you're fighting, but they heal on their own."

Fleischli says in the first week, just basic things like coughing, sneezing, even taking a deep breath are going to hurt. On the field, he'll feel sharp pain when he bends over to take a snap, when he drops back and when he twists to make a throw.

That's probably why he's sitting out Thursday night's preseason finale against the Steelers, but in 10 days in Tampa it's almost a guarantee that he won't be pain-free, which could impact his performance.

"It may affect his throwing motion in terms of pain, particularly with longer passes," Fleischli said.

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The biggest risk he faces would be taking another hit, which could further the injury and set him back.

"I'm sure they'll pad it to protect it in case he does get hit," Fleischli said. "They may change things up from a coaching standpoint to protect him a little bit more from contact and then load him up on anti-inflammatories before the game."

So for Panthers' fans, or anyone with Newton on a fantasy team, if and when he does take the field, now you know what kind of pain he's pushing through.

"Cam is one of the tougher ones by all accounts and I think he'll be able to play and get through it," Fleischli said.

We'll find out, on September 7.

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