HEARTBROKEN Leeds Rhinos Women’s and England star Lois Forsell said she had to retire to “save her knee” following multiple complicated surgeries.
The two-time Challenge Cup winner, who has played 18 times for England and is one of the sport’s biggest stars, has been out of action for 13 months after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament.
Forsell, who captained Leeds to the 2018 League Leaders’ title before being sidelined, is still only 28 but conceded she could not risk continuing her fight to return to the field following a raft of complications.
“This was the worst decision for me to make and I am heartbroken that I will not be able to play again,” said the hooker, who won the 2019 Sportswoman of the Year at the Leeds Sports Awards.
“After suffering the ACL injury in September 2018, I had a reconstruction operation in November.
“At this stage I was still hoping to be back playing the following season, but I then found I had osteomyelitis which is a bone infection, which was a result of the first surgery.
“I was then admitted to hospital for a month and had to have a further five operations. During this time I was still thinking about rugby and getting back playing, but my doctor was more concerned about saving my knee.”
Forsell, who joined from Bradford Bulls, continued: “In July I had another operation to get some biopsies and remove scar tissue and pins and this all came back okay.
“So I was looking at moving forward and how I could get back on the pitch.
“Unfortunately, in the week leading up to this year’s Grand Final I had another check-up and was told I needed another two operations, including a bone graft to fix a hole in my femur.
“These would have taken between 18 to 24 months after the last surgery and involved serious risks and no guarantee I would be able to play again.
“Following this news, I came to the very difficult decision that I would retire from playing.
“It was not the outcome I wanted and although my head knows it is the right decision, my heart did not want to make this call.”
Forsell started out at East Leeds and also played for Middleton before joining Hunslet and then Bradford.
She has worked with Leeds Rhinos Foundation since 2012 as their women and girls development officer and heads up the Leeds Rhinos Women’s Academy; eight players coached by her featured in Rhinos’ recent Grand Final win.
“When I was in hospital I spoke with Kevin Sinfield and he said that ‘through adversity comes blessings’,” said Forsell.
“Although I’m sad to hang up my boots I am positive about what the future holds and the impact I can still have on the Women’s game.
“I will continue to work with the Women’s Academy and will have a role with the Women’s team alongside my development work with Leeds Rhinos Foundation.”