Wed 26 Mar 2014 | 10:36
Whitehead forced to retire
Wed 26 Mar 2014 | 10:36
Whitehead forced to retireSHARE
Exeter Chiefs forward Chris Whitehead has confirmed this week that he will have to retire from professional rugby with immediate effect.
Part of the club's cup winning side of a fortnight ago, the 27-year-old hooker has heeded the words of top specialists regarding his degenerative neck problem and called time on his four-season spell at Sandy Park.
Signed from London Wasps in 2010, the Derby-born forward has since gone on to make a total of 76 first team appearances, scoring two tries in the process.
Although 'gutted' with the news that he has been forced to call time on his career, Whitehead admitted if there was one game to go out on, then the recent Cup Final was 'not a bad one to end with'.
"Obviously I'm incredibly disappointed to be told to stop playing," he said.
"I'm 27-year-old; I'm playing in the top division and with a great club, so it's a huge kick to the stomach and not something I was really planning for."
"That said, I'm proud of my career and what I've achieved and I'm fortunate and honoured to be part of the Chiefs for the past four seasons. There is never a nice or an easy time to retire from the game, but to do so early is certainly tough to take."
"As a player you're always aware that you're not going to last forever, simply because you put your body on the line every week. However, I know I'm bowing out on a high having been part of the Exeter side to beat Bath for the first time in years and then obviously going on to beat Northampton and lift the club's first major silverware."
Whitehead added: "I've been struggling with my neck for a little while now, even though I had surgery done on it last year, and there comes a time when you have to put your health first and foremost. When top specialists are telling you stuff like they did with me, you have to listen to them despite how much you love the sport and the club."
Since making his debut for the Chiefs in an Challenge Cup tie away to Bourgoin, Whitehead has given his all to the Devon club and he says life in the Westcountry is very much part and parcel of his future moving forward.
"I'm still planning to stay down here," he said. "I love the area, I love Exeter and if I can help the Chiefs in any way in the future they only have to ask. From day one, the club have been a huge part of my life and I've shared so many amazing experiences along the way," he said.