Originally created 11/04/99

Clark says his lung collapse caused by team doctor



SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Tight end Greg Clark's collapsed lung apparently was caused when a San Francisco 49ers team doctor inadvertently punctured it while administering a pain-killing injection.

The 49ers declined to release the name of the physician, though the San Francisco Chronicle reported it was Dr. Robert Gamburd. The team does not allow its doctors to talk to the media without permission.

Gamburd continues to be employed by the team, according to coach Steve Mariucci, who added he still has full confidence in the club's medical staff.

"We have good medical care and our medical staff is very good and has been very good over the years," Mariucci said. "It's unfortunate, but luckily Greg came out of it fine. I don't know what else I can tell you."

Clark, still bothered by five rib fractures sustained in an Aug. 19 preseason game, asked for and received a pain-killing shot prior to the Oct. 24 game against Minnesota. He played almost the entire game before shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain made it unbearable and he was taken to the locker room, where X-rays revealed the collapsed lung.

If not treated quickly, a collapsed lung, a condition known as tension pneumothorax, can be a life-threatening emergency.

In Clark's case, he was taken immediately to a hospital in Minneapolis where he spent four days receiving treatment. He spent two more days at a Minneapolis hotel where doctors could keep an eye on him before finally being allowed to fly back home.

He made his first public comments on the ordeal Wednesday.

Clark said his Minneapolis doctors told him that the most likely cause of the lung collapse was the needle puncture from the shot.

"You can't say anything for absolutely 100 percent sure, but everything points in that direction, that that's what caused it," Clark said.

Clark said he didn't feel right soon after receiving the injection but didn't feel bad enough to take himself out of the game until it was nearly over.

"The thing that's hard as an athlete is sometimes you get so used to playing in pain and dealing with pain that sometimes you're not sure where to draw the line of where it's too serious to play," Clark said.

The tight end said he's aware the situation was serious and was thankful the problem was detected and treated before it reached an acute stage.

"The treatment was great. The doctors were great out there. Everyone has been great as far as the management and the concern they've expressed for my family through the whole thing," he said. "I probably feel better now than I have all season."

Clark is expected to resume playing within three weeks.