A CHELTENHAM Festival-winning jockey has been forced to retire aged just 31 after a horror fall left him with Popeye syndrome.
Jumps jockey Jerry McGrath feared he might have to live in a wheelchair after being caught in a terrifying pile-up at Lingfield last January.
McGrath could not feel his legs in the immediate aftermath of the fall and was still unable to walk a month later.
He dislocated and fractured his left shoulder and hip and needed two operations – the second one lasting eight hours.
McGrath did return to riding but ruptured his bicep, resulting in Popeye syndrome whereby his bicep was constantly tensed.
The former jockey told the Racing Post he was gutted to be retiring but that 's*** happens'.
He said: "The hip healed relatively well, but the shoulder has given me a lot of trouble.
"The bone has healed OK but there's a lot of metal in there and there was a lot of nerve damage.
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"I got back riding out and thought it was going the right way, but my bicep ruptured and I've got what's called Popeye syndrome where my bicep is constantly tensed.
"That set the range of movement back. The bicep was probably damaged in the fall and when you start strenuous exercise – like riding out – it popped."
McGrath, who won the Ultima on Nicky Henderson's Beware The Bear at the 2019 Festival, was praised by the top trainer for his time in the saddle.
Seven Barrows supremo Henderson said: "He’s been a very special man to us. He’s been at Seven Barrows a long time and he is part of the place – and we really want him to remain here
"We all feel desperately sorry for him and I know he wanted to go on for a bit longer, he wasn’t ready to retire just yet.
"It broke his heart not to be able to continue because he was very good at it.
"The great thing about Jerry is that he is already helping me enormously with the entries and he has already got a second career in the bloodstock world, he is absolutely fascinated by it all. I think he knows the pedigree of every horse in England!
"He’s got connections and friends all over the racing world that I hope will be supporting him in what he is going to do next."
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