Rehab room: The likely timeframe for Jeremy Howe’s return

Dual AFLW premiership player and sports physiotherapist Libby Birch uses skills from both her professions to analyse some of the biggest injuries in football and how they will impact players and clubs.

I had the best seat in the house on Friday night – riding the MCG boundary. Unfortunately, I witnessed injury carnage as the Cats and Pies played a blockbuster.

Jeremy Howe broke his arm on Friday night.Credit:AFL Photos

Two of the most serious injuries included Jeremy Howe’s broken arm, one of the most horrific we have seen in a while, and Tom Stewart’s knee injury, suffered on the recently re-laid MCG surface.

Collingwood coach Craig McRae told Fox Footy on Monday that the Pies will know more on a timeline for Howe’s return in a couple of weeks.

But based on the information available, we can estimate how long his recovery will take – provided there are no pitfalls along the way.

From here there are some crucial outs for round two but equally some exciting ins that will bolster some teams’ chances of success this season.


Howe flew high to spoil Tyson Stengle on Friday night, with nothing to cushion his fall except his arm. It appeared that Howe sustained a compound fracture of his arm; though it’s not confirmed, due to the force, it is likely that both the radius and ulnar bones would have broken. Howe has undergone surgery and usually in adults, both plate and screws are used to hold the bones in place while the healing process occurs. It takes about 4-6 weeks for hand and wrist bones to heal.

LIKELY REHAB If he doesn’t pick up an infection from the compound fracture, the good news for Howe is after the initial healing, he will be able to keep his running loads up. We should see him back to his best inside three months, but that’s a huge chunk of his season gone in the blink of an eye.

LIKELY EFFECT It is a huge loss for Collingwood, Howe being a key pillar in the defensive line-up and vice captain of the side. It puts a little bit more strain and load on captain Darcy Moore, who stood up to the challenge in the final quarters on Friday night. But is that sustainable? We could see the likes of 201-centimetre Billy Frampton play his first game in the black and white this weekend, replacing Howe in the back half for Collingwood.


The Cats released a statement on Monday announcing that Stewart had sustained a grade 2 MCL injury after falling awkwardly on Friday night. This is a small tear of the ligament on the medial side of the knee. It is good news for the Cats; their initial response, to put his leg in a brace after half-time, suggested it could have been a more serious injury that may have required surgery. We should expect to see Stewart back within 2-4 weeks.

LIKELY REHAB The medial ligament needs time to heal. Tom will spend a lot of his rehab in the gym strengthening the muscles around his knee to return to the field quickly.

LIKELY EFFECT The injury affects the Cats’ defensive structure immensely. Without Stewart, who is Geelong’s defensive general, Chris Scott may have to consider using Marc Blicavs more through the back half. From what I saw on Friday night, Stewart will no doubt have a key role to play in coaching from the sidelines. It will be interesting to see how the Cats face Carlton’s talls in Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay on Thursday night. The good news for the Cats is that Sam De Koning should be right to play. His right knee had buckled underneath him as he ran backwards in the second quarter and he went off the field for treatment on Friday night. Though his injury left Geelong two defenders down at one point against the Pies, De Koning returned to the field with heavy strapping and has since been cleared of any structural damage.

Tom Stewart was subbed out of the game on Friday night.Credit:AFL Photos

Brisbane Lions

There were no injuries out of the Lions’ dismal display against Port Adelaide on Saturday. However, three potential ins are awaiting clearance by Brisbane’s medical staff. Dayne Zorko, 34, missed the opening round with a hamstring injury. Due to his age and previous history with soft tissue injuries, it is not uncommon for a precautionary length of time to be given on a return to play. The last thing physiotherapists and doctors look for on return from muscle strains is usually high-speed running and ability to get through some live game play. Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said he completed about 20 minutes of match simulation on Tuesday. Callum Ah Chee may be out until round three with a quad strain as he only began skills training last week. Quads can take a little longer, particularly if it is Ah Chee’s kicking leg.

LIKELY REHAB Zorko will continue to train this week and the Lions have announced he is available for selection. Ah Chee will increase his running loads and kicking distances at training, as long as he shows no symptoms.

LIKELY EFFECT This will significantly bolster the Brisbane Lions’ experience within their midfield as well as provide Fagan with one more midfielder who can be a prolific goalkicker.

Dayne Zorko could be back for the Lions this week.Credit:AFL Photos


Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly will both miss the trip west this weekend, both sustaining concussions in round one. Both were taken off the ground and have been placed in concussion protocols, which is a mandatory 12 days. Kelly gathered 26 possessions, and Whitfield gathered 17 before both being subbed off. A huge loss for the Giants, who also lost midfielder Harry Perryman to a hamstring strain in the opening five minutes.

LIKELY REHAB There is a seriously strict concussion protocol that must be followed. This includes a few days of mandatory rest and then a build-up from walking to running to contact over the next 10 days. If you experience symptoms, your progression through the stages are held up by a day. Progression is based on the individual.

LIKELY EFFECT It was a courageous effort by coach Adam Kingsley’s side to overcome a 31-point deficit and beat Adelaide with three midfielders down and in roaring heat. But the loss of the midfield power of Whitfield and Kelly could very well prove to be too big against West Coast.


Peter Wright experienced the highs and lows of sport last week. The Bombers forward dislocated his shoulder less than a day after signing his new contract. Massive structural damage means surgery and approximately three months on the sidelines.

LIKELY REHAB Surgery has been indicated. This will be followed by an intensive period of strengthening of the shoulder before any type of football training is started.

LIKELY EFFECT Archie Perkins and club debutant Sam Weideman gathered five goals for the Dons over the weekend. Consistency will be the key for these two. The Dons lose about 2.5 goals a game not having two-metre Peter in the side.

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