Fort Myers teen dead after collapsing from heat stroke
FORT MEYERS (FOX 13) - At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, 16-year-old Zachary Martin-Polsenberg had a future in football. His godmother said he had a real love for the game.
"Zach really had a dream to go to the NFL one day. He had the body structure for it and he was training for that," said Zachary's godmother, Kathleen Johnson.
But his dream of playing in the NFL was cut short. Zachary collapsed from heat stroke last month while practicing Riverdale High School in Fort Myers. He died Monday after he was taken off life support.
"No one ever wants to see that in sport or anywhere," said Plant High School head football coach, Robert Weiner. "It could happen anywhere."
The Florida High School Athletic Association requires teams to take water breaks every 30 minutes. Players at Plant and other schools are encouraged to take more if they need it.
"We tell our kids it's the one time that there are no rules or instructions from any coach stopping you from going to get water," said Weiner.
"It's hot," said Matt Kitchie, the head football coach at Lennard High School. "We feel we get more out of the kids when they are properly hydrated and at their physical peak."
It's been reported state guidelines were followed at Riverdale's practice when Zachary collapsed. His core temperature rose to 107 degrees. He then fell into a coma.
"A person that's crossing that line into that heat stroke, sometimes you'll feel their skin, there is no longer any sweat," said the FOX 13 medical team's Dr. Joette Giovinco. "It feels hot to touch, and that person, when you look into their eyes, they kind of glaze over a bit. You need to cool them down as rapidly as possible."
In their 40-plus years of combined experience, Weiner and Kitchie have experienced heat-related illness a combined five times.
"The two times that I've had kids fall out from heat illness, they did it in stretches," said Kitchie. "So that means we were in the first 10 minutes of practice."
Heat-related illnesses like heat stroke can strike anyone at anytime. Practices generally won't last any longer than two-and-a-half hours.
"We try to create a culture with our kids that it's okay to ask, to say, 'Man, I'm a little light-headed, let me step out for a moment,'" said Weiner. "You can prevent these things before it actually gets to the full-blown part of that."
A Lee County spokesperson said Riverdale High School followed all proper protocol in the incident involving Zachary Martin-Polsenberg.