The former Liverpool and current Bolton player, Stephen Darby, has announced his retirement from professional football after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
The 29-year-old revealed his diagnosis in a statement thanking his teammates for the support he has received.
Motor neurone disease is a rare condition which affects the brains and nerves and worsens over time. Typical symptoms include weakness in the legs, slurred speech, weak grip, muscles cramps, weight loss and exaggerated emotions.
While the disease usually affects people in their 60s and 70s, it can affect adults of all ages, with around two in every 100,000 people developing the condition in their lifetime.
Fans and former colleagues have taken to social media to celebrate Mr. Darby’s successful career which began at Liverpool, before moving on to play for Bradford City and Bolton, with several appearances in the England under-19 international team.
In a statement to supporters, he said: “I would like to ask for privacy at this time so I can adjust to the battle I have ahead and that I can spend time with those closest to me.
“I’d like to take the opportunity to thank my team-mates, manager and all the staff at Bolton for their amazing support at what has been an extremely difficult period,” he said.
Although there is no cure for motor neurone disease, early diagnosis can help ease symptoms and disability.
The earliest symptoms of the disease include mild muscle weakness in the hands and arms, particularly when gripping objects. Others may experience weakness in the feet and legs and in the muscles around the face and throat.