ALEX Brown has been ruled out until at least the end of the season – leaving a doubt over his long-term rugby future.
The 33-year-old lock underwent complicated shoulder surgery at the weekend and will not play again in this campaign.
Gloucester rugby director Nigel Davies admitted the Cherry and Whites are unsure when Kingsholm stalwart Brown will be able to make a playing return.
But Davies pledged Gloucester will give Brown every helping hand in his lengthy battle for fitness.
Brown suffered nerve damage in the season's opening game against Northampton and has not played since.
This injury setback is a cruel blow in the accomplished lineout coordinator's benefit year.
Gloucester boss Davies admitted he will search for a potential new recruit in a bid to offset this fresh blow.
With most players currently mid-contract, Gloucester may look to the Championship or the Southern Hemisphere.
Davies explained: "It's not good news, he's got nerve damage in his shoulder and as a result of that he'll be out for at least the rest of the season.
"It's a real blow for Alex and terrible news for us.
"But we have to move on and we wish Alex all the best, and we'll see how he progresses over the course of the next few months.
"We did try to avoid the op but it was necessary in the end because the symptoms weren't moving.
"Once they got in there they realised there was a lot of damage and they had to do a lot of repair work.
"It's a real shame for him, especially in his benefit year, and suffering the injury in the first game of the season.
"But Alex has been positive. It's a difficult time he's going through, coming to terms with the fact he won't play again this season.
"And we'll help Alex move forward as best we can.
"It's a blow for any player but unfortunately that's the nature of the game now, it's a brutal game.
"But we'll see with Alex, we'll see what happens with his rehab.
"We'll give him everything he needs to help him try to get back.
"With him being out for the season we've got to look at options.
"It's not easy because we're midway through a season, and most people are in contracts.
"But we have to look to see what's out there, if anything, because that does make us a little lightweight there, especially when Jim Hamilton's away with Scotland."
Former Wales and Llanelli centre Davies said despite his injury blues Brown still has an important role to play at Kingsholm this season.
He continued: "Alex will certainly help with his knowledge of lineouts, and he's been doing that already since he's had the injury.
"He's still going to be a big part of the club, but he won't be able to play again this season.
"Those who watch the games will realise that Alex has been down at pitch side quite a lot, and that's beneficial because he's there looking at what the opposition are doing both defensively and on their own ball.
"And as a result of that he's able to feed in information, and he's able to focus on that one area.
"So he's still contributing to the cause and he's a big asset."