Leeds captain Stevie Ward has been forced to retire at the age of 27 due to long-term concussions.
Ward says he suffers on a daily basis with symptoms caused by the concussions, which occurred on January 19 and February 2 of last year.
The loose forward made his first team debut in 2012 and went on to make 136 appearances for the Rhinos, scoring 23 tries.
Ward said: “I have come to the conclusion, after over 11 months of severe symptoms, that I need to give this injury the respect and time it deserves and cannot put my health and brain to any further risk and detriment.
“On a daily basis, I struggle with migraines, dizziness, motion sickness, sensitivity to light and screens, short-term memory issues, slurred speech, and an inability to exercise or do daily tasks without irritating my symptoms.
“I love the game of rugby league. I am immensely proud to have competed on some of the biggest stages next to childhood heroes and test myself to the absolute limit while feeling the incredible buzz from the Leeds fans after being one myself as a youngster.
“I thank every player that I have played with and against, and I am especially grateful for the incredible friendships the sport has given me.”
Former Leeds Rhinos skipper Stevie Ward has announced his retirement aged just 27. Thank you to Stevie for his contribution to the club having come through the Academy ranks to become a Challenge Cup and Grand Final winner
➡️ More here https://t.co/zFpBXugG3O pic.twitter.com/fAEu3uSMY5
— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) January 5, 2021
Leeds coach Richard Agar said: “It is always disappointing when any player is forced to retire from the game prematurely due to injury but especially so when it is someone with so much talent and potential as Stevie Ward.
“I know that our medical team have worked tirelessly with Stevie this year to try and find a positive outcome however unfortunately Stevie has now taken the difficult decision to begin the next stage of his journey after rugby.
“On a personal level, when I became head coach back in 2018, Stevie was one of the senior players who was a catalyst for change and getting the club back to our core values. Having made Stevie our captain a year ago, personally it is sad to see his career end this way but I am sure he will continue his work with Mantality and bring the same level of professionalism and expertise to his future work that he has shown on the field throughout his career.”
Ward won three Challenge Cups, a League Leaders’ Shield and three Super League titles with Leeds.
Listen to The Final Hooter podcast, featuring exclusive interviews, every week. SUBSCRIBE to Love Rugby League on Apple Podcasts.