Johnson faces hard road back to AFL, again

Rob Forsaith
Alex Johnson faces some big questions as he comes to grips with the prospect of more surgery

The pressing question Alex Johnson and Sydney now confront is not whether the luckless defender will pursue another AFL comeback after a sixth knee reconstruction, but whether he should.

Scans late on Monday afternoon are expected to confirm Johnson has damaged the anterior cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his right knee.

Johnson's right knee is his 'good' knee. The 26-year-old's left ACL has already been the subject of five reconstructions and serious infections that led to some 2136 days on the sidelines.

The Swans and Johnson are yet to map out a path forward, understandably given one party is plotting a precarious path to finals and the other is dealing with a unique sense of devastation.

Nobody at the club - or indeed in the AFL community - will doubt Johnson's resilience and persistence to get back on the park.

But medical advice is likely to be that Johnson should retire, as it has been in the past.

"Two surgeons said to me, 'you're no chance of getting back there, you're not going to play any footy again, let alone play AFL'," Johnson noted earlier this year on the PlayersVoice website.

"They actually said, 'you'd be stupid to continue on ... you'd be better off looking after your health'.

"That just spurred me on."

The backman's hard-luck story had an almighty upswing in round 20 this season, when he played his first AFL game since the 2012 grand final.

But league-wide support was replaced with an overwhelming sense of despair following his latest setback, suffered in innocuous fashion during Sunday's clash with Melbourne.

Johnson remained in Melbourne following the Swans' win to be with family.

Sombre players, some of whom were in tears at the MCG, are still struggling to process their teammate's misfortune.

Sydney football manager Tom Harley, soon to be their chief executive, indicated it's too early to contemplate whether Johnson will attempt another AFL comeback.

"If I know him at all, I reckon he'll have a crack at it," Harley told radio station SEN.

"We just need to work our way through that respectfully.

"At the right time we'll sit down."

Concerns about Johnson's long-term health will again form part of the discussions he has with Harley and coach John Longmire.

"How are you going to be at 35 when you're picking up your kids? Those were the discussions," Longmire recalled on the eve of Johnson's recent AFL comeback.

Johnson is expected to opt for a standard reconstruction.

He has undergone traditional knee reconstructions, LARS (Ligament Advanced Reinforcement System) procedures and a LARS hybrid reconstruction. All three options have led to further ACL agony.

The risk of recurrent ACL injury is well documented in both the medical and AFL community.