Former Liverpool and Denmark defender Daniel Agger has shed light on his dangerous use of anti-inflammatory drugs during his professional career.
Agger announced his retirement from football last month, aged 31, having grappled with a succession of injury problems.
A back complaint dating back to 2007 eventually resulted in a prolapsed disc, which in turn led to pain in his knees and toes.
Agger turned to anti-inflammatory drugs customarily used to treat rheumatism, often taking more than the recommended dosage, before matters came to a head when he captained Brondby against rivals Copenhagen in the Danish Superliga last March.
The centre-back was nursing a knock from the previous week and took anti-inflammatories throughout the build-up to the match and on the day of the game. He lasted 29 minutes before being taken off, when he collapsed.
“I have taken too much anti-inflammatories in my career,” he told Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
“I know that full well, and it sucks, but I did stop it [in the end]. I am not gaining anything personally from saying this but I can only hope that other athletes do.
“It could be that others take a pill or two less.”
Agger, who compensated for the sluggishness the medication brought on with a heavy caffeine intake, felt unwell during the warm-up for the Copenhagen match and did not remember his eventual exit to the physio room at Parken.
“I only had one thought and that was to remain in the dressing room after the warm-up but then I put the shirt on and decided to play,” he explained
“The body could not cope with it. The maximum dose should be taken for only three days.
“The body reacts to what is put into it and it was my body’s way of telling me that it had had enough.
“When the head can’t work it out, then the body had to do it.”
Agger stopped using anti-inflammatories altogether after that experience and he conceded his retirement has come as a relief to his wife Sofie.
“She has said it time and time again, that I should stop taking the medicine but it has gone in one ear and out the other,” he added.
“So [when I decided to stop playing] she was pleased too because of the pain I have had and because I have taken so much [medicine] just to keep standing.
“I am in a place where I have had enough, mentally and physically. I wanted to quit somewhere near the top. I have always said that that was important for me and therefore I stop now.”