Torquay United announced that defender Ryan Higgins has been forced into an early retirement at the age of 23, due to a serious heart condition.
Higgins was a product of Everton's youth academy before moving to Birmingham City. Since then he has played for the likes of Chester, Southport and most recently Torquay United.
He has made 18 appearances for Torquay in the Vanarama National League this season, although hadn't featured for the side since November.
#tufc defender Ryan Higgins (@R_LHiggins) has been forced to retire from the game after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition. https://t.co/wSZ5H1dDTa @Everton @BCFC @tamworthfc @telfordutd @ChesterFC @southport_fc #yellowarmy #nationalleague pic.twitter.com/INXj800iGo— Torquay United FC (@TUFC1899) March 9, 2018
Speaking to the club's official website, he said: "My sister was rushed to hospital with a heart condition back in November. I was actually at training here in Torquay when I received a call from my family to say my sister had been taken into hospital.
"I had a few weeks away with my family in what was a very worrying time for all of us. I did briefly return to football but, after further investigation, the doctors informed us that my sister’s condition was hereditary and all of us in the family would need to undergo tests.
"It has been a long and difficult process, and we received the worst possible news last week, which confirmed I would have to retire from the game.
"Football has been my life and all I ever wanted to do since the age of four. It is too soon for me to know what the next step will be but I look forward to the next chapter in my life with a positive attitude.
"I would like to thank the Torquay United players, staff and supporters for the encouragement they have given me over my time at the club. It was very tough breaking this news to the players today but they are a terrific bunch of lads, and I wish the football club every success for the future.”
Torquay United manager Geoff Harrop also spoke about Higgins, adding: "This is devastating news for any young professional to end their career at just 23 years-old but I know everyone at Torquay United, players, staff and fans, will get right behind supporting Ryan and his family."