Fremantle midfield star Michael Barlow has suffered a setback in his bold bid to resume playing in the AFL opening round of next season.

Barlow is understood to have received a disappointing medical report on his recovering broken left leg from his orthopaedic surgeon Michael Wren.

The 2010 first-year sensation is due to have a 30cm metal plate running down the inside of his lower leg removed later this month.

Dockers management and medical staff continue to remain set on nursing their vital long term blue-chip midfielder without a definite planned resumption date.

But it is believed Barlow’s surgeon is troubled with a slower than expected healing rate in his broken bones.

Barlow, who turns 23 this month, suffered his shocking break in the Round 14 clash against Port Adelaide at Subiaco Oval in Perth when he crashed into teammate Rhys Palmer in a marking contest.

He snapped the tibia and fibula bones below the knee in the horrific collision and his bone restructure was described by surgeons as fitting a “jigsaw”.

Recent assessment and scans have shown slow growth and further surgery has not been ruled out.

Dockers management has left nothing to chance in Barlow’s recovery bid.

The club has invested what is reported to be around $100,000 for the trump midfielder to use a state-of-the-art compression bubble and treadmill.

Barlow has been running on a treadmill surrounded in a giant “bubble” below his waist.

The device originated from professional sport in the US and is called the “Alter-G Anti Gravitational Treadmill” with ability for medical and training staff to control the degrees of atmospheric pressure a runner endures during his workout.

The high-tech device is a big hit with American gridiron football franchises to assist in restricted weight bearing running for bulky and burly players as well as athletes in latter stages of their careers.

Fremantle is understood to be considering getting at least one more of the anti-gravity machines to possibly prolong the career of giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands, as well as champion playmaker and captain Matthew Pavlich.

Barlow stormed onto the AFL scene with Fremantle last season as the youthful Dockers defied expectations and won eight of their first 10 games to be genuine premiership contenders along with competition trendsetters Collingwood, St Kilda and Geelong.

His return into next season is deemed a vital factor in Fremantle’s hope of a second successive finals campaign for the first time in the young outfit’s history.

Fremantle has already suffered nasty off-season injury setbacks with a prolonged absence of veteran defender Roger Hayden until well into next year, while another star first-year youngster Anthony Morabito snapped his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee this month.

Morabito was Fremantle’s first draft pick in 2009 and number four overall and turned 19 after a highly impressive debut season and will miss the next 12 months in recovery from a complete reconstruction.

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