Heatstroke preventable with proper precautions, experts say


NORTH NAPLES, Fla. The death Monday of a 16-year-old Riverdale High School football player from heatstroke is shining a light on the need to stay cool during outdoor workouts.

Hydration, vigilance and communication are key to preventing heatstroke, a rescue official and athletic trainer said Thursday.

Zachary Polsenberg. Photo via Kathleen Johnson

“You have to work in time frames, you have to have periods of rest, you have to have plenty of hydration available to you, and people watching,” said Jorge Aguilera, assistant chief of emergency medical services for the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District.

Heatstroke usually begins to occur when the body’s temperature gets above 104 degrees, Aguilera said. Zachary Tyler Martin-Polsenberg, who was taken off life support Monday, fell into a coma after his core temperature was at 107 degrees for more than an hour.

Polsenberg suffered heatstroke during an offseason conditioning practice that took place from 7 to 10:30 a.m. June 29, a school district spokeswoman said. It involved both indoor and outdoor sessions, and water breaks were given at least every 30 minutes.

Those built-in breaks are critical, said Derek Newborn, a personal trainer for Around the Clock Fitness in Fort Myers.

“Now is the perfect time to have a trainer working with your athletes, working on their movement prep, working, teaching them how to warm up properly, teaching them how to move properly, so they don’t injure themselves later on,” Newborn said.

Trainers can watch athletes for signs and symptoms of heat-related issues, such as headaches, cramping, strange behavior and confused looks.

It’s unclear whether a trainer was on site when Polsenberg became ill. The Lee County school district didn’t respond to multiple phone and email requests for information.

The Collier County school district places trainers at each high school with athletic programs, but it’s unclear whether that’s the case with Lee County schools.

It’s important for athletes to tell whoever’s on scene about any symptoms of heatstroke they may be suffering, Aguilera said.

“Some people downplay what their first initial signs and symptoms are until it’s too late,” Aguilera said.


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