Top Pick Retires Due To Health Concerns
Retirements are often a time of reflection on a professional’s long and storied career. It is rare the word “retirement” is attached to a player at such a young age, but such is the case with Toronto FC defender Zachary Herold. The club announced Monday that the 17 year old Generation Adidas product has had to retire from the game of soccer.
Herold suffers from the condition Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) – which causes abnormal thickening of a part of the heart muscle. With this condition, under strenuous exercise, there is a risk of developing a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia. Unfortunately the only way to reduce this risk is to put significant life-long restrictions on exercise.
On Saturday, May 22 the team will honour the 2010 MLS SuperDraft pick in a ceremonial coin toss before the 1 p.m. ET kick-off against the New England Revolution at BMO Field.
“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. We felt it was the right thing to do by honouring him in front of our fans, and give them a chance to show their support.”
As part of Toronto FC’s screening procedures, an electrocardiogram (otherwise known as ECG or EKG) is done on all players. There are certain patterns that are recognized as potential problems for athletes, and it is at that point that cardiologists are consulted. In Herold’s case, several experts in both Canada and the U.S. were consulted and a variety of tests were performed to properly and accurately diagnose this condition.
“Announcing my retirement from soccer at this age is something I never, ever thought would happen to me,” said Zac 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 and although it’ll be a tough day, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on the 22nd”
“The support we have received at this very difficult time has been more than we could have ever imagined,” said Zac’s mother, Beth Inniss. “We want to thank the Wasserman Media Group, particularly Aaron Maines and Richard Motzkin. All of the doctors, especially, Dr. Ira Smith and Dr. Christine Lawless, and to the staff at Toronto FC. Special mention to Mo Johnston and Preki, I have never felt such support from a group of people as I have in the past three months. You have all stood by Zac, and lifted him up. I cannot thank everyone enough.”
Herold was drafted in the 2nd Round, 24th overall on January 14 in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft that was held in Philadelphia. The defender was a fixture with the U.S. U-17 MNT and made 15 appearances, 13 of those as a starter. Herold was also part of the U-14 and U-15 teams before enrolling in the U.S. U-17 Residency Program in the fall of 2007.
Toronto FC doctor Ira Smith and Dr. Christine Lawless, the head of cardiology for MLS will be available at 11 a.m. ET via conference call for questions. To be a part of the call, please RSVP to Earl Cochrane at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (416) 815-5400 ext. 5020.