Former Scotland youth defender Stuart Urquhart is facing an uncertain future having been diagnosed with a heart problem after leaving Dunfermline.
The 20-year-old, who had spells with Rangers and Coventry City, had felt short of breath near the end of the season with the League One Pars.
"The best would be that it's just an illness I have picked up and hopefully I get a quick recovery," he said.
"The worst case is that I'll maybe be a few years out of football."
Urquhart, who played for Scotland Under-17s, has been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) - a disease of the heart muscle where it becomes stretched and thin, unable to pump blood around the body efficiently.
DCM can be inherited, but there are a number of other causes, including viral infections, uncontrolled high blood pressure and problems with heart valves.
Asked if it might mean the end of his playing career, Urquhart told BBC Scotland: "It could be. I'm not going to sit here and say I'll definitely come back. I just don't know.
"But I'm optimistic. If I'm lucky enough and it does improve then I'll be over the moon. If not, I'll just need to deal with it."
Urquhart was a youth player with Hamilton Academical then Rangers ,and made three appearances for Dumbarton on loan from the Ibrox club before signing a three-year contract with Coventry in 2013.
He left the English League One club by mutual consent in August and went on to make 12 appearances for Dunfermline Athletic last season.
However, he did not feature in the Pars' last five games and said: "I knew something was up in the last part of the season, I'd gone to the doctor and it is just in the last couple of weeks that I've found out the condition.
|Description: A disease where the walls of the heart have become stretched and thin, so they cannot contract (squeeze) properly to pump blood around the body|
|Causes: A change or mutation of inherited genes, or viral infections, uncontrolled high blood pressure, problems with heart valves, excessive amounts of alcohol, pregnancy|
|Symptoms: Shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles and abdomen, excessive tiredness, palpitations|
|Treatment: Medicines, a pacemaker, or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator|
"Even in the warm-up, I was becoming quite breathless and I was starting to doubt myself and thinking I was a bit unfit maybe, because I couldn't control my heart rate.
"I would start running and I had no control of my breathing, but I was desperate to play. I didn't want to come off and say I had this wrong with me - but I knew there was something wrong."
Urquhart had attracted interest from Scottish Championship clubs after being released by Dunfermline but has put those talks on hold.
"When I first went to see the consultant and she told me, I felt faint," he said. "I didn't know what to think or what to say.
"But I appreciate now it could have been a whole lot worse. I could have been playing last season and something could have happened to me and I appreciate that now and I'm just happy that nothing has happened and I have got a grip of it."