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American youth international fullback suffers from rare heart condition.

Toronto FC rookie Zac Herold was forced to retire this week at the age of 17. The fullback suffers from Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which abnormally thickens a part of the heart muscle.

The only safe way to avoid a fatal
arrhythmia is to limit strenuous exercise. Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe died from the condition during a soccer match in 2003 and since then physios have scanned for it in all players.

Toronto doctors detected Herold's condition in preseason.

"Early in pre-season we did medical’s on all our players, and obviously our doctor, Ira Smith, was concerned with some of Zac’s results," said manager, director of soccer Mo Johnston. "From there he then began a series of tests with a variety of doctors, in both Canada and the U.S.  Zac’s health was first and foremost in this process. Our hearts go out to Zac and his family; it’s a very difficult situation."

With no other recourse, the 17-year-old former U.S. youth international has retired from professional soccer.

"Announcing my retirement from soccer at this age is something I never, ever thought would happen to me," said Herold. "I am grateful to Dr. Smith, and all the specialists I’ve seen over the last few months – this news was very hard to take but I know it’s the best decision for me and my health. My parents have been with me every step of the way, and it means so much to me that I’m able to 'retire' as a Toronto FC player. The whole team has been wonderful to me and my family."

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