BATH, England (AP) — Former England hooker Lee Mears was forced to retire on Monday after becoming the latest British rugby player to be diagnosed with heart problems.
Doctors detected an "abnormality" on Mears' cardiac screening program and advised the front-row forward to retire because there was "a significant potential risk of developing further complications" by playing on, club side Bath said in a statement.
"This is not how I saw it ending," said the 33-year-old Mears, who played 42 matches for England and also toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 2009. "This will be a tough period, but the memories I have and the friends I have made over the years will be of huge support."
Since 2006, Ireland prop Simon Best, and Wales front-rowers Rhys Thomas and Lloyd Burns have all retired as a result of heart problems. Another Ireland prop, Marcus Horan, was able to continue playing despite undergoing minor heart surgery in 2009.
Mears, who played 16 years for Bath, won his last cap for England in last year's summer tour of South Africa, after which he announced his international retirement. He played at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups and was known for his dynamic play in the loose.
"Lee is a legend, pure and simple," Bath head coach Gary Gold said. "The only thing that matters is to be healthy and if that means he stops playing, then that's the way it has to be."