As Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski approaches a crucial medical examination, one independent field expert stressed the possible impact of a long-term infection.

Dr. Ben Wedro, who practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic in Wisconsin and has provided medical information for media outlets at the Olympics, said the severity of a potential chronic infection could derail his record-setting start with the Pats.

Gronkowski is nearing the conclusion of a six-week antibiotic cycle to combat an infection in a broken left arm that has already required three surgeries, and there is concern that the infection has not gone away. That will be determined this week.

If the infection has been cured, doctors can insert a metal plate in his arm to start a 10-week recovery period. But if the infection still exists, that process will continue to be put on hold.

“If you have issues with reinfection of the bone and the plate, there can be long-term consequences that the bone will not heal,” said Wedro, who does not have direct knowledge of Gronkowski’s situation. “It may need significant time to heal. That means sometimes that they have to take the plate out, wash the wound out and let all of the infection completely resolve before they go back in and do a repair. Sometimes, you can get a chronic non-union, or non-healing, of the bone.”

More specifically, what could that mean for Gronkowski’s football career? After all, the three-year veteran signed a $54 million contract extension through 2019, and became the first tight end in history to score at least 10 touchdowns in his first three seasons, including a record 18 scoring grabs in 2011.

Gronkowski’s health and success are paramount for the Patriots, who struggled without him in their AFC Championship loss to the Ravens and had their issues when he was a fraction of himself in Super Bowl XLVI against the Giants. Therefore, this infection cannot be taken lightly if it does not heal.

“If he has a wound that is chronically infected — they cannot get rid of the infection — it could stop them from having the definite operation to completely repair his arm, which means he probably would not play football,” Wedro said. “That is the worst-case scenario. I’m not saying that is going to happen, but that is the worst-case scenario.