Bulldogs General Manager of Football Phil Gould has revealed that it would have been a "catastrophic" situation if Karl Oloapu didn't realise he had neck pains.

Pinned as the club's next big thing, the injury to Oloapu has allowed the Bulldogs to discover that the youngster had a serious spine condition before sustaining the injury to his neck.

The Herald has disclosed he faced significant risk playing with a condition he was born with and it is understood that when he flexes his neck and looks down, it actually presses on his spinal cord, causing damage.

This means he could need cervical fusion surgery.

“At the moment, we're just gathering medical opinions,” Gould said via the publication.

“I've got a couple of opinions; Karl wants a third opinion. I think he's very, very lucky that something catastrophic didn't happen with a condition that he's got.”

The Herald has revealed that if Oloapu is forced into medical retirement, the Bulldogs will face a $1 million-plus payout from the NRL.

It was revealed earlier this week that he withdrew from Samoa's two Tests in their Pacific Cup tri-series against New Zealand and Australia due to neck pain, and News Corp then reported he may need surgery on his neck.

Also revealed was the fact that Oloapu played through most of the 2023 season in pain. That was evident when he was rested from certain games through the back end of the year as the Bulldogs attempted to manage a player they had long-term plans in place for.

His rookie NRL season came after a controversial off-season move from the Brisbane Broncos, where the Bulldogs paid big money in a transfer to secure his services.

Even without surgery, it's unclear if the youngster will be available for Round 1 next year when Cameron Ciraldo's squad begin a campaign that will be aiming to turn around a disastrous 2023 that ended in a 15th-place finish.

The Bulldogs are understood to be fully behind Oloapu, who is on contract with the club until the end of the 2026 campaign.