An injury to the spleen is potentially life-threatening, say the doctors at MayoClinic.com,
The fist-sized organ is located just under the rib cage on the left side and is easily injured "during a sporting mishap, a fist fight or a car accident," the website says.
Sean Avery's condition is said to be fixable without surgery, likely meaning the tear was small. But even a slight tear can cause a life-threatening loss of blood.
"The spleen helps your body fight infection and filter unwanted material such as old or damaged blood cells," the website says. "The spleen also produces red blood cells and certain types of white blood cells."
A rupture in the spleen can sometimes take up to several days or even weeks to develop after someone sustains a blow. Since the organ is rich in blood, it can heal quickly with rest. Typically, however, the organ is removed in an emergency surgical procedure called a splenectomy.
Former Maple Leafs winger Nikolai Borschevsky, who currently is coaching hockey in Russia, suffered a hard hit during a game in 1993. He continued playing but soon complained of light-headedness. Quick-thinking doctors had him transported to hospital immediately where it was determined the organ had ruptured and it was removed immediately. Borschevky missed seven weeks while recuperating.
People who have their spleen removed must be much more vigilant about infections and can be on life--long preventative antibiotics.