Heart condition forces TFC rookie Herold to retire

Zachary Herold (left) was drafted 24th overall in the 2010 SuperDraft.

Zachary Herold, Toronto FC’s second round pick in the 2010 MLS Super Draft, was forced to retire from soccer on Monday due to a heart condition that could worsen if he furthered his playing career, according to a news release from Toronto FC.

Herold, 17, suffers from Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which causes abnormal thickening of a part of the heart muscle. If he continued to strenuously exercise, then he would have risked developing a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). The only way to reduce the risk is to put significant life-long restrictions on exercise, making a professional career in soccer impossible.

“Announcing my retirement from soccer at this age is something I never, ever thought would happen to me,” the defender said in a statement issued by TFC.

“I am grateful to Dr. [Ira] 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 May 22.”

That day, the club will honor the Generation Adidas product in a ceremonial coin toss before the 1 p.m. ET kickoff against the New England Revolution at BMO Field.

Herold’s condition was discovered during preseason training after he underwent an electrocardiogram (ECG). The club then consulted doctors on both sides of the border who performed a variety of tests to diagnose his condition.

“Early in preseason we did medicals on all our players, and obviously our doctor, Ira Smith, was concerned with some of Zac’s results,” said 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 honoring him in front of our fans, and give them a chance to show their support.”

Herold was drafted 24th overall and saw no regular-season action.