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Making a necessary sacrifice

After finishing last season 6-10-1 and losing five of its last six games, the USF women’s soccer team hoped star player Lindsay Brauer would help the team rebound this year.

And from her record, it looked like she could do it.

Brauer ­— who tried out for the U.S Under-23 National Team in the offseason — scored nine goals in 17 games, impressing U.S. Olympic team coaches during the national team’s training camp.

Brauer, a senior majoring in physical education, was riding a wave of momentum as she returned to USF this fall to play for a team that would need her leadership more than ever, with 22 of the 31 players on the roster incoming freshmen.

What happened during USF’s required physical exam, however, would bring Lindsay’s soccer career to an abrupt end.

One of Brauer’s tests came back abnormal, according to

Abnormal test results aren’t that uncommon in athletes, but Brauer’s doctors requested an EKG.  USF is one of just a handful of schools in the country that use EKG testing in their physical procedure. Screenings cost $2,000 per athlete, and are paid for by the USF athletic department, said Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Chris Freet.

The results weren’t good, and a third test, a cardiac MRI, along with the previous test, confirmed that Brauer has a thickened left ventricle, a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

HCM is a genetic disorder of the heart. The condition causes the wall of the left ventricle, the largest of the four chambers of the heart, to develop thicker than normal and prevents the heart muscle from performing properly.

About 200,000 Americans die from HCM every year, and most of those deaths are people younger than 30, according to  The site estimates that one in 500 people in the U.S suffer from the condition.

Brauer, whose family has a history of HCM, had no symptoms of the condition, and it likely would have gone undetected without the EKG.

Just because Brauer’s been benched doesn’t mean she’s leaving the soccer field for good, however.

“Lindsay is irrepleaceable as a player, but we gain a lot from her as our new undergraduate student-assistant coach,” USF women’s soccer head coach Denise Schilte-Brown said.

The test results ended Brauer’s career, but may have saved her life.

Brauer said she has no regrets.

“I would rather live a full, happy life than have it cut short in a soccer field,” she said. “I played soccer for 22 years, it was my life, but life goes on and I hope to be able to give back to the sport by teaching soccer to young girls and helping my teammates this year.”

Brauer is going to be able to live a normal life with few cardiovascular complications, if any.

“I can still work out, run and lift weights, but I can’t play sports at a competitive level anymore,” Brauer said.

The team has dedicated the 2008 season to Brauer and will wear an insignia on its uniforms with the word “COUR4GE” on it, in honor of her uniform number.

Student athletes from all over USF have also showered Lindsay with e-mails, dedications and Facebook wall posts and messages as they chose not to grieve, but to inspire Brauer with gestures of love and compassion when she needed them the most.

“I was shocked they dedicated the season to me. It’s always nice to know people care about you,” said Brauer, who called USF her second family. “Everyone from the trainers to the athletic director has been of great help to me. I can’t thank them enough.”