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Engelbrecht, Germany's first professional player wearing defibrillator, sees team win again

12/13/2014 10:41 EST | Updated 02/12/2015 05:59 EST
BERLIN - Daniel Engelbrecht, Germany's first professional footballer to play while wearing a defibrillator, made his fourth appearance as a substitute for Stuttgarter Kickers in the 2-0 win at third division rival Jahn Regensburg on Saturday.

The 24-year-old striker capped his remarkable comeback the week before when he scored the winner in injury time to beat SV Wehen Wiesbaden 2-1.

Few believed he'd be playing at all after he collapsed during a league game in July 2013. He had to undergo four heart operations after being diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation.

Engelbrecht says his initial comeback in a local cup game on Nov. 15 "was one of the most beautiful moments of my life ... a wonderful acknowledgement of the fight I've won so far."

Against medical advice, Engelbrecht was always determined to make a comeback.

"But the fear is always there...I have to learn to trust my body once again," Engelbrecht told the German football federation's website. "I thought I would die. Now I feel healthy and can live normally again."

Engelbrecht still needs monthly check-ups.

"I'll never be fully out of the woods," he said. "My heart sustained permanent damage. But it is well stabilized. Doctors say it is amazing how I coped — both physically and mentally."

Engelbrecht says he is inspired by Belgian player Anthony Van Loo, who also competes with a defibrillator. In 2009, Van Loo suffered a cardiac arrhythmia during a game, but the defibrillator shocked it back into a normal rhythm.

"He's probably the first footballer anywhere to play with a defibrillator. For me it was a huge motivation to be the first German," Engelbrecht said. "The damage to my heart was slightly more serious than his. That's why it was even more important to me to give courage to others with my story. I want to show that even with heart problems your life doesn't have to stop."

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