Jim McNulty is expected to miss the start of next season for Albion after losing a kidney.

As exclusively revealed on the Argus website yesterday, McNulty is recovering in hospital following surgery to remove his right kidney.

The 24-year-old defender is unlikely to be fit to resume his career with the relegation-haunted Seagulls when the new campaign gets under way in August.

Physio Malcolm Stuart said: “It is going to be very tight. We are probably looking at four to six months recovery.

“If it goes swimmingly smoothly then yes but I suspect it will be just after the start of the season.”

McNulty suffered the damage when he was accidentally kicked by an opponent during the home game against Crewe last month.

Stuart said: “He undwerwent surgery on Friday. The idea was still to try to save the kidney if we could but the damage was too great and it was removed.

“It was a long and painful operation but he is making a steady recovery and we see no reason at all why he should not return to full fitness.

“Ten per cent of the population walk around with only one kidney, so it is not going to be a problem career-wise, but it is obviously a big blow to Jim.”

Left-back McNulty was hurt on only his fifth appearance for Albion following a £150,000 move from Stockport in January.

The Liverpudlian is expected to remain in hospital for at least another week and will need protection for his surviving kidney when he returns to action.

Stuart said: “It is going to mean some very slight lifestyle changes but Jim is a very good athlete.

“He is superb with his diet, nutrition and refuelling, so it will mean less to him than it would other people, because he is very good at that part of the game.

“He will take on board some fresh advice and he will cope with it.”

Teenager Charlotte Craig represented America in taekwondo in the Beijing Olympics last year, despite having a kidney removed when she was a baby.

Others who have played top flight sport after a kidney transplant include New Zealand rugby star Jonah Lomu, Croatian international footballer Ivan Klasnic and NBA basketball title winner Alonzo Mourning.

According to medical experts, a normal life can be led with a single kidney and special diets are not needed but urine and blood pressure should be checked annually.