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Riverdale High football player dies from heat stroke

LCSO opens investigation into incident

July 14, 2017
By PETE SISK ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Riverdale High School community is reeling following the death of one of its students from heat stroke at an offseason football workout.

Zach Polsenberg, 16, just about to begin his junior year at Riverdale, died on July 11 in a Miami hospital, almost two weeks after he collapsed during a preseason morning workout.

Polsenberg, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive lineman, was rushed on June 29 to Golisano Children's Hospital, where he fell into a coma. Doctors determined that his internal body temperature had been at 107 degrees for two hours, causing internal damage.

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Riverdale High School logo

He was transferred to a Miami hospital, where he remained in a coma until his father, James Polsenberg, announced on July 11 that Zach had been taken off life support.

First-year Raiders football coach James Delgado did not respond to requests for comment.

James Polsenberg said his son's organs were being donated.

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"At this difficult time, our thoughts, prayers, and love are with Zach's family," Riverdale High principal Scott Cook said in a prepared statement. "Zach was an amazing young man and the Riverdale family's hearts are broken. Our immediate focus is to provide any and all support that we can to our students, staff, coaches, and most importantly, Zach's family. Please continue to keep them all in your thoughts and prayers."

The Lee County Sheriff's Office announced on July 12 that it is investigating Zach's death.

Spokesperson Melissa Mickey released the following statement by email on behalf of the Lee County School District: "Our coaches are trained to act quickly in response to anyone showing signs of distress. They rendered aid, called 911 and the student was transported to the hospital.

"This practice was part of offseason conditioning and took place from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. It was held indoors and outdoors," Mickey's email read. "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 in addition to those breaks."

Riverdale holds voluntary workouts Monday through Thursday mornings during June and July. The sessions are held both outside and inside the school.

Zach and his teammates were not in football pads, since the Florida High School Athletic Association does not permit the wearing of equipment during offseason training.

Once fall football practice begins July 31, players wear helmets, but no pads for the first two days, followed by three days of helmets and shoulder pads. On the sixth day of fall workouts, players are allowed to practice in full football gear.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries, 46 high school athletes died from heat stroke between 1995 and 2015. Most of those deaths occurred during practice sessions.



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