Ulster lock Peter Browne has been forced to retire from rugby with immediate effect after suffering repeated concussions.
He said following medical advice he had made the difficult decision to retire from the game he loved.
The 30-year-old began his career with Newcastle Falcons in 2007.
The second row made the last of his 34 Ulster appearances against Leinster in January.
He said: “Over the past couple of seasons, along with other injuries, I have suffered a number of concussions. In all of those cases (apart from my most recent head injury, which took longer), I have made a quick and full recovery and, thankfully, I have no long-term symptoms.
“However, through the expert medical care at Ulster, headed by Dr Webb, and having seen a neurological specialist, it is clear that I have an increased propensity for concussion symptoms following any head injury. Therefore, with that counsel, and after speaking to family, I have made the extremely tough decision to retire from the game I love.
“Looking at the situation rationally, and trying to remove emotion, the objective is my long-term health alongside all the other passions, hopes and goals I have for my life.
“I look back with thankfulness on a career spanning 12 years, from a bright-eyed (beardless) school kid in the Gloucester Academy to a student making his debut for Newcastle Falcons. I then moved to Harlequins and was fortunate to be part of the squad that won the Amlin Cup, Premiership and LV Cup. Then, after two very contrasting seasons at London Welsh as we won the Championship, and then were relegated, I was recruited by Ulster, and for that I will be forever thankful.
“Playing for Ulster has been an incredible privilege. Getting to follow in the footsteps of my father (who played for Ulster and Ireland Schools) by being part of this club fills me with pride and gratitude. I would like to thank the fans for their unwavering support, the coaches for all of their hard work and my team mates for their support and friendship throughout my time here.
“I only wish I could have played more and won something with a squad with so much quality in it. I could not imagine playing for any other team as Ulster has truly become my home.
“I would like to thank my family, and in particular my wife, for their unconditional love and support throughout my career.
“Finally, I am thankful to God for giving me what talent I had to play at this level, which allowed me to try to honour not only those who recruited, coached, watched and played with me, but also Him.”
Bryn Cunningham, Ulster’s Operations Director, added: “I would like to thank Pete for the way in which he embraced his move to Ulster and made a positive contribution, not only within our environment, but also in the wider community. Pete will be missed around Kingspan Stadium but we fully understand his decision to retire and we wish him well in whatever he turns his hand to next.”