JOHN Easterford says he is unsure whether he will continue playing next season after a serious health scare earlier this year.

The 31-year-old was rushed to hospital at the end of February with suspected meningitis. Subsequent checks also revealed the defender could have a bleed on the brain.

It turned out to be a virus called Encephalitis in which the brain becomes swollen.

But, although the illness can be life threatening, Easterford was able to return to the football pitch quickly and help Bowers & Pitsea in the play-offs.

Bowers were defeated at the semi-final stage by Canvey Island meaning they will play another season in the Isthmian North next term.

And Easterford says he is unsure what role he can play after the worrying episode.

“We played AFC Sudbury towards the end of February and I think something must have happened in that game,” said Easterford, who has also played for Concord Rangers, Canvey Island and Great Wakering Rovers among others.

“Maybe a foreign object like some mud or sand went in through my eye but I didn’t feel anything initially.

“Later that week I was at work and I got a sudden headache. I got them quite a bit but that was nothing new. But the pain got worse and it felt like my head was in a clamp.

“I went to bed early that evening looking to sleep it off. But I woke up at about 1am and the pain was too much.”

Easterford was vomiting and could not look into the bedroom light due to its brightness.

His girlfriend called for an ambulance having established the symptoms Easterford was showing were similar to those of someone suffering with meningitis.

Rushed to Southend Hospital, Easterford was put on a drip and required to have two lumber punctures, a procedure which removes fluid from the base of the spine to use for testing.

But he said that was another harrowing experience.

“The first lumbar puncture went wrong,” he said. “The needle must have been in my back for about 45 minutes as they couldn’t get the fluid out.

“Thankfully they were able to sort it second time around but it didn’t do my back any good.

“They also thought I might have had a bleed on the brain but that never became apparent. It became clear it was a virus but that can still be quite nasty.

“I spent a couple of days in there before heading home. I was told to have two weeks bed rest and to try and get rid of the pain, which took a lot of medication.”

Easterford was advised by doctors not to go back to playing football. But after just five weeks the committed centre back was back in the Bowers team.

In the middle of their promotion chase and with Bowers short of options at the back, Easterford made his return against Maldon & Tiptree on April 7.

He played in nine of Bowers’ final 10 matches but says he will have to re-evaluate whether he is able to return to the game this summer.

“The advice I got was to not go back to heading footballs,” said Easterford, who, following fortnightly checks, was given the all clear a month ago.

“But we were well placed in the league and it was hard for Smallsy [Bowers boss Rob Small] to get a replacement. Nothing developed so I had to suck it up.

“My first game back was against Maldon, although I wasn’t planning to go on. But I had to after Jamie Dicks was sent off in the first half. It was quicker than was ideal and I didn’t really return to form after that.

“But I can now rest up and re-evaluate what I want to do. I may call it a day as I can’t help but think it’s another sign saying it might be time to stop.

“Your health is important and I have a young family. But we will have to wait and see.”