Fremantle young gun vows to return
Anthony Morabito says his recovery from a third serious knee injury is going well
Anthony Morabito will undergo a 'hybird' form of LARS surgery in an effort to play football this year
ANTHONY Morabito's decision to undergo a "hybrid" version of LARS surgery on his left knee has given him a better chance of making a full and lasting recovery, according to leading sports physician Dr Peter Larkins.
Morabito, who is already running after surgery in January and hoping for a playing return mid-season, is the first AFL player to undergo what Larkins labelled "LARS premium".
The Fremantle midfielder spoke to the media on Wednesday morning for the first time since his third knee reconstruction, outlining what he said was the "logical answer" to his injury troubles.
"We went for a hybrid graft, which incorporates the LARS with part of your own hamstring tendon," Morabito said.
"The aim of that is to get the short turnaround of the LARS but also have the longevity of a hamstring graft over time.
"Once we had the information, it seemed like the logical answer, just because it did give you that long-term effect if all goes to plan.
"I would not have wanted to go down the pure LARS path per say, just for the fact that I would have felt like I was trying to salvage something out of nothing."
Dr Larkins, who agreed with Fremantle and Morabito's decision, said the hybrid surgery was "essentially a traditional operation with a little bit of LARS thrown in".
He said the operation would have a better chance of success because the 21-year-old would have his own tissue in the knee, not just a piece of nylon.
"I think it's smarter than just doing the LARS," Larkins told AFL.com.au.
"I understood their decision to look for an option that allowed him to play football in 2013, because I think that was good for him emotionally.
"They're putting a bit of traditional (hamstring graft) in, in the hope that will be stronger and last longer than just a LARS on its own.
"I think there's some logic in that."
Morabito said he was not planning to play at any level until he felt completely comfortable with his movement and change of direction, but he was confident he would be playing at some point this season.
He said resuming running had been an important milestone in his recovery.
"Once you get back out there you really feel like you're not far off," he said.
"I just look forward to training every day now and improving on a daily basis with the knowledge that football is going to happen at some stage this year."
Morabito said he was preparing himself mentally for a third traditional reconstruction until he received a phone call from Sydney Swans premiership hero Nick Malceski.
Malceski underwent LARS surgery on his second and third reconstructions and "planted the idea" in Morabito's head.
"That phone call from Malceski came at the right time, because it really put me on the path to where I wanted to go," he said.
Morabito has been in weekly contact with Geelong youngster Daniel Menzel, who is also recovering from LARS surgery, and he said the support received from the AFL community had been overwhelming.
He said he had never considered giving the game away and the experience of spending two years on the sidelines had helped him grow up.
"I wouldn't be the person I am if I hadn't gone through the stuff I'd gone through," he said.
"You're not thankful for it happening, but it has given me a different perspective on stuff.
"It's taught me how to be patient, it's taught me there's stuff that you don't want to do that you have to do if you want to get to places.
"I'm just looking forward to what the future holds."
Nathan Schmook is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nathan