Florida Teen Dies After Collapsing at Football Practice
Florida Teen Dies After Collapsing at Football Practice

A Florida high school football player died on Monday, July 10, after collapsing during football practice last month, according to local media reports.

Zachary Martin-Polsenberg, 16, who plays at Riverdale High School, suffered heat stroke, his godmother confirmed to NBC2.

NBC2 and other local outlets say that he was taken off life support at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami on Monday.

The teen had collapsed on June 29 during running drills with his Riverdale High School football team, Fox4 reported. He was later diagnosed with heat stroke and had a temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Reports indicated that he entered a coma and was on life support.

He was dubbed the “gentle giant” by those who knew him. According to the News-Press, he was 6-foot-5 and weighed 320 pounds as a junior.

A GoFundMe was set up for his family, which raised about $5,700 as of Tuesday afternoon.

Riverdale High School in Florida (Google Maps)
Riverdale High School in Florida (Google Maps)

“They are grateful for the support of so many family and friends that have been lifting Zach up in prayer,” the GoFundMe post said.

A school district spokesperson said that the incident happened at an off-season conditioning exercise. 

A statement sent to NBC2 reads: “This practice was part of off-season conditioning and took place from 7-10:30 a.m. It was held both indoors and outdoors. At these practices, water breaks are given at least every 30 minutes and sooner if needed. Players are also encouraged to stop and hydrate whenever necessary during those breaks.”

The district added: “Our thoughts are with the player and his family. The coach is in regular contact with them and offering them whatever support they need.”

His godmother added that Zachary wasn’t using equipment when he collapsed.

“Our coaches are trained to act quickly in response to anyone showing signs of distress,” Lee County School District spokesperson told the News-Press. “They rendered aid, called 911 and the student was transported to the hospital. The student’s parent was on campus at the time.”

According to WebMD, “Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury and is considered a medical emergency. If you suspect that someone has heat stroke—also known as sunstroke—call 911 immediately and give first aid until paramedics arrive.”

“Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes.”

Per WebMD, symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
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