Hull captain Ian Ashbee will miss the majority of the season after suffering a setback in his recovery from a knee injury.
The 32-year-old, who is in the final year of his contract, may now have only a limited playing future with the Premier League club.
Ashbee suffered the injury playing against Aston Villa in May and missed the final three games of last season.
There had been reports the player was set to retire, but he will travel to the United States for surgery next week in the hope of curing the problem.
Manager Phil Brown said: "He has had a setback with regards to his long-term problem, he had an operation on his knee three or four years ago.
"He is flying across to Colorado on Monday to undergo that surgery. Hopefully the scenario will be rehabilitation and back within eight or nine months.
"It is a big blow for Ian and a big blow for us, as the club captain. We have had long discussions about it. He is in the last year of his contract and has tried desperately to try to get another one.
"In that inimitable fashion of his he is trying to prove people wrong.''
Ashbee made 35 appearances for the Tigers last season after starring in their successful promotion campaign of 2007-08.
Ashbee has in the past overcome a serious bone condition in his leg and major surgery to enjoy a professional career.