Will Jaeger's knee cope? It's a 'crystal ball guess', says Larkins
Travis King November 15, 2016 4:01 PM
AFL 2016 Media - Jaeger O'Meara Press Conference
Jaeger O'Meara joined Hawthorn in the NAB AFL Trade Period
AFL rejects query over O'Meara trade legality
IT IS a "crystal ball guess" how Jaeger O'Meara's troublesome knee will cope with the demands of pre-season training when he attempts to reignite his stalled career at Hawthorn, according to leading sports medico Dr Peter Larkins.
O'Meara hasn't played any senior football in the past two seasons after tearing his patella tendon in a 2015 NEAFL practice match for former club Gold Coast.
The 22-year-old is expected to be eased into pre-season when the Hawks' senior players resume on December 5, and then gradually build towards Hawthorn's round one blockbuster against Essendon.
"If you really set a target to have him right for March … I don't think they're pushing it," Larkins told AFL.com.au.
"I think they've got time, but I think it's a crystal ball guess as to whether or not his knee will cope with AFL training levels.
"It's only November, so they don't have to push him hard until he gets into the new year.
"But the issue for him is whether he can load up enough training to make AFL fitness levels without getting more kneecap soreness.
"That's been his issue through the whole of 2016 and arguably 2015 – he hasn't been able to train to get up to play."
The Hawks are confident they can get O'Meara back to full fitness and went hard to secure the 2013 NAB AFL Rising Star winner, finally landing their man in the dying minutes of the Trade Period.
Larkins said there are multiple low impact ways for O'Meara to build his aerobic capacity – including running on an anti-gravity treadmill and swimming – but the gun onballer needs to run to build the engine required by an AFL midfielder.
"All clubs that were looking at him were aware with his medical background that he was a risk to take on board," he said.
"So going forward, obviously Hawthorn have confidence in their rehabilitation staff that they can somehow guide him through a gradual build-up of his running fitness that's not going to stir up the knee.
"The program would be to just gradually load him up with the progressive impact on the knee."
O'Meara's injury is rare in AFL circles, with Michael Long, Chris Knights and Gary Buckenara among the few to have suffered similar problems.
Despite undergoing arthroscopic surgery in August after experiencing soreness following his NEAFL comeback, O'Meara recently said his knee was "feeling really good" and he was keen to get stuck into pre-season.
"First and foremost, I want to get back and be back in the main group and training and earning the respect from my teammates," he said.
"The best way to do that I think is to train hard and that's what I'm setting my sights on."
Meanwhile, a group of about 10 young Hawks are set to arrive home from a team-bonding trip to Kokoda on Friday, with the entire group of first-to-fourth-year players to then being pre-season training on November 23.