Newcastle Falcons player forced to retire due to spinal problem sustained in match

He "was paralysed for five or six minutes" after suffering the injury

Taione Vea

Taione Vea (centre) is tackled by Viadana's Mirko Monfrino (left) and Andrea Denti (right) while with Was[s. Picture by: Nigel French / EMPICS Sport

Newcastle Falcons forward Taione Vea has been forced to retire aged just 27 because of a spinal problem.

The Tonga rugby union international prop was injured only a matter of weeks ago, in the Falcons' Aviva Premiership opener against Sale.

Vea says he "was paralysed for five or six minutes" after suffering the injury.

Announcing the decision on Falcon's official website, Vea explained: "I took a bad knock in the game against Sale and spent a few nights in hospital, and when I had my scan results unfortunately things didn’t come back too well. I had quite a bit of swelling in the spinal cord, around some really important areas of the neck, and it is just one of those things.

"I was left paralysed for five or six minutes on the field, where I couldn’t feel my whole body. That is enough for anybody in a lifetime, and the risk of that happening again if I was to return to playing is quite high. It is obviously not the way I wanted to go. At the age I am and the way I felt I was playing, I was planning on a fair few more years. But having spoken to medical professionals and specialists I have had to just accept the fact there is more to life than playing the game I love."

He also explained that after suffering the injury, it was only in the ambulance that feeling began to return to his arms, while also touching on the lead-up to the injury.

"What actually happened was that I passed the ball, relaxed, felt the hit, and even though I didn’t know who or how, I knew I’d been hit from behind. As I was falling to ground I could see myself falling. I was perfectly conscious, I just felt a bit of a sting, but as I was falling I couldn’t feel anything or control anything. I couldn’t brace to stop myself falling, my face hit the ground and as I was lying there I couldn’t move or feel anything," he said.

"Our head physio Simon Pope was asking me what was going on, I said I couldn’t feel anything, I couldn’t move and that my arms and legs were gone. The medical staff turned me over, and the scariest part was after I asked someone to grab my arms. I was getting more and more agitated saying ‘someone please grab my arms’ but as I looked up I saw our head of athletic performance Kevin McShane squeezing my hand. I couldn’t feel a thing. Eventually after five minutes I started to get a little bit of feeling in my toes, then my feet, but I knew it was serious."