WHAT IS INJURY?
In 2015 O’Meara had a rupture (complete tear) of the patella tendon, a critical structure that connects the kneecap to the lower leg. It is essential to provide strength and power to the knee via the quadriceps muscles and when ruptured, a player cannot bear weight or even move the knee. This is an extremely rare injury in the AFL and in recent history only Essendon’s Michael Long (1996) and Adelaide’s Chris Knights (2013) have had similar tears.
HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
Ruptures occur when a process such as age or injury weakens a tendon. O’Meara had arthroscopic “ shaving” of his patella tendon in London in September 2014 in an attempt to deal with chronic overuse tendon soreness. During a comeback practice game in April 2015 his tendon snapped, suggesting it had not fully recovered.
WHAT IS TREATMENT?
Surgery to repair the torn tendon is always required. Normally the torn ends are directly sewn together. However, in O’Meara’s case the surgeon discovered the tendon was so badly torn that a piece of hamstring tendon was grafted to the front of the knee to augment the repair. This usually means recovery takes longer as the body has to integrate and remodel the hamstring tissue into the repaired patella tendon.
WHEN IS RETURN LIKELY?
Unfortunately O’Meara has required a third operation (arthroscopy) in February 2016 to address ongoing cartilage damage behind his right kneecap. This is typically a sign the patella is not tracking correctly in front of the knee. This causes pressure and breakdown of the sensitive cushioning cartilage protecting the patella bone surface.
His rehabilitation involves focusing on strengthening the knee, improving balance and coordination and gradually building up running, then jumping and kicking skills before attempting match simulation at training. Gym work and physiotherapy sessions make up a big part of his week.
sports where patella tendon ruptures occur more often (NFL, basketball) players can return successfully after surgery at approximately 10-12 months if there are no complications.
WHAT DOES FUTURE HOLD AFTER THIS INJURY?
Jaegar has now had three operations on his right knee in a 17-month period.
O’Meara’s repaired tendon will continue to regain strength and remodel for a period of 2-3 years in total. His most recent surgery setback should see him back to his pre arthroscope training by late April but there remains some doubt over the future health of his kneecap cartilage. His medical and fitness team will continue to monitor his knee soreness and training workload throughout the season.
Gold Coast are optimistic he will play senior games in 2016 but no firm date has been set for his return.
(Article from Round 5 AFL Record)