Lee Mears: Heart problem forces Bath hooker to retire from rugby
Bath and former England hooker Lee Mears has been forced to retire from rugby because of a heart problem.
The 33-year-old has spent 16 years at The Rec, making 268 appearances, and has been capped 42 times for his country.
Mears, who has not played a league game since January, was advised to quit after an abnormality was detected on a cardiac screening.
"It's mixed emotions at the moment," Mears told BBC Radio Bristol.
"But you've got to be positive and think about the things I've achieved. I'm smiling, even though it's a sad day.
"I knew it was going to come and I'm so glad it's come at the end, rather than the middle or the beginning."
Torquay-born Mears made his Premiership debut for Bath against Saracens in March 1999 and established himself as first-choice hooker during the 2005-06 season.
He represented England through the age groups and, after a successful stint with the Saxons in 2005 and 2006 Churchill Cups, earned his first full cap in November 2005.
Mears was also included in the British and Irish Lions squad for the tour of South Africa in 2009 and started the first Test in Durban.
He announced his decision to retire from international duty in June, and his last game for Bath came in the 19-16 win against Agen in the Amlin Cup on 12 January.
Mears confirmed the heart issue was discovered during a routine check last month: "I had an unusual ECG [Electrocardiography] and with further tests it was revealed.
"It's something that can happen with elite athletes and it can cause and unusual arrhythmia through a thickening of the heart walls.
"It was a bit of a shock but now it's onwards and upwards."
Head coach Gary Gold added: "Mearsy is a legend, pure and simple. His retirement will be felt by all of us at the club, and also by the supporters who have cheered him on over the years.
"The only thing that matters is that he is healthy, and if that means he stops playing, then that's the way it has to be. He will be missed, but we will always welcome him back with open arms.
"This is his club, and it always will be. We send him off with real affection and gratitude."