WORCESTER City’s homegrown talent Jamie Smith finally has hope of beating the season-ending neck problem that has threatened his playing career.

The 21-year-old left-back has been in and out all season due to a recently-diagnosed disc bulge between his C4 and C5 vertebrae.

The aspect concerning medics the most is an annular tear, damage to the soft disc between bones in the spine that act as a shock absorber in day-to-day movements.

It causes Smith’s shoulder and arm to “lock up” intermittently with sharp, shooting pain that arrives without warning.

Disc bulges are quite common and Smith’s issue may have been left untreated had he not planned to continue his football career.

Intense spells of physiotherapy followed by rehabilitation work concludes in late April in a bid to resolve the Worcester-born-and-bred ace’s issue without the need for surgery.

The arduous strengthening and fitness process follows but Smith says progress has been "very positive" to date, prompting hope that he will not have to consider quitting the game to protect his long-term health.

“The operation is not something the doctors want to do, it is not really something you should be having at the age of 21,” said Smith.

“I am not too aware of the risks at the moment, I have tried to stay away from all that and focus on anything but surgery.

“It would be the last resort. Football is something I want to do but if it gets to the point where it is so severe that it could risk my future I would have to think long and hard about it.

“With the way things are going so far, it doesn’t look like I will need to go that way. If I wasn’t playing football they would not bother touching it, let’s just hope I don’t need to think about that.

“It is quite frustrating but all I can do is take it a day at a time.

“I have had physiotherapy sessions at Worcester Royal for a couple of months. They are pleased with the results and have seen a lot of progress with the pain I had been suffering, it is not so severe at the moment.

“Because of the bulge and where it is, it affects the nerves connected to my shoulder and arm.

“When the bulge presses on the nerve it is a sharp pain in my neck that makes me struggle to move, it will lock up.

“It will do that for three or four seconds and then suddenly be alright. That’s what makes it so unpredictable.”

The trickiest part for Smith has been getting to the bottom of what he initially thought to be a shoulder complaint, affecting his ability to play despite the debilitating issue only arriving sporadically.

“Some people don’t know they have disc bulges, it was only because I had an MRI that I knew I had it,” he added.

“I have had pain for about four years but it was not dealt with that well at the time. It kept getting worse and worse, I knew something was not right.

“The problem with me ­— and everyone jokes about it ­— is I have had quite a lot of injuries.

“Some have been niggles, others more serious. I have tried to carry on but got to the point where I couldn’t risk playing and making it worse.

“Snapper and Ash (John Snape and Ashley Vincent, manager and assistant manager of City) have been brilliant about it and while the lads have a joke, everyone realises it is to do with my health and potentially quite serious.

“I am really grateful for all the support I have had from the club, everyone has been checking up on me and seeing how I am getting on.

“I think it was quite a shock to Snapper how serious it was. We thought it was something quite small.

“I am die-hard Worcester City, it is the club I have always wanted to play for after growing up 50 yards up the road from St George’s Lane.

“If I didn’t have the relationship I do with the club, I don’t think I would carry on playing to be honest.”

City visit Lye Town in the Midland League Premier Division tomorrow (3pm).