Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich's time as one of the AFL's most durable players is over and he is in danger of regularly missing games because of injuries, according to leading sports doctor Peter Larkins.
Pavlich will today learn the extent of the calf injury he suffered during the second quarter of Saturday's loss to Collingwood. The best case scenario for the five-time best and fairest is a two-week lay off, but he is likely to miss three games and not return until the round 17 western derby.
The 27-year-old strung together 160 games for Fremantle between round 15, 2001 and round 16, 2008, while also playing 17 pre-season fixtures, the Hall of Fame tribute match and three International Rules games. But that workload caught up with him late last season and he missed three of the last six games.
Fremantle eased him through preseason this year and he began the home-and-away season slowly before capturing form against Sydney in round five. Last week, Dockers coach Mark Harvey indicated he wanted to ease the stress on Pavlich's body by moving him back into the forward line. Dr Larkins said Pavlich's body was feeling the strain of 10 seasons at the highest level.
"Unfortunately it does catch up," Larkins said.
"You can't hide from injuries if you're playing in such a competitive game. He's been very lucky and that's one of the reasons he's played as many games as he has. But he's going to have to be careful with his body, the same way James Hird, Nathan Buckley was and Ben Cousins is at the moment. It's definitely an issue. Soft-tissue injuries are an issue for the running athlete who is over 25.
"There's no doubt that as you get a bit older, you re more prone to muscle strains. We know some statistics that calf injuries are more common in older players. He's more prone to it. You can almost divide calf injuries into people under 25 and people over 25. The recovery time is slower when you're older."
Fremantle play Carlton at Subiaco Oval on Sunday and the Blues also have injury concerns. Spearhead Brendan Fevola has had surgery on the little finger on his left hand after damaging a tendon against Essendon on Friday night.
Fevola, who kicked two goals against the Bombers to take his season's tally to 43, will be given until later in the week to prove his fitness.CRAIG O'DONOGHUE
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