A Florida teenager has died after collapsing on the football field during conditioning drills Tuesday afternoon, according to Tampa police.
Authorities say Hezekiah Walters, 14, an incoming freshman at Middleton High School in Tampa, lost consciousness about 30 minutes into the team’s workouts, which included weightlifting, wind sprints and water breaks.
The young man was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he passed away.
“We’re devastated by the death of one of our students,” school officials said in a statement. “This student was an amazing young man who was loved by his friends, teachers and staff at school. He was taking part in conditioning and weight lifting with other athletes [and] coaches when he collapsed. The coaches immediately called 911 and he was rushed to the hospital.”
According to ABC Action News, temperatures in Tampa reached 89 degrees by 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Walters collapsed around 4 p.m.
A county medical examiner is now working to determine the cause of death, officials said.
Though football-related fatalities are rare, a 2017 report by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research found that heatstroke and exertion-related cardiac arrest caused 9 of 13 football-related deaths that year. The four other deaths were the result of traumatic brain injuries.
The study further states that “heatstroke and heat exhaustion can be prevented by careful control of various factors in the conditioning program of the athlete,” adding that prevention measures “must go beyond hydrating, but emphasize how to properly hydrate … and achieve the appropriate fitness baseline for the intended rigors of practice.”
The Hillsborough County School District released a statement Tuesday saying it will halt all summer workouts until further notice.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are directing each school to take the proactive step of ceasing all conditioning and athletic activities until these requirements are met,” including a review of all athletics safety procedures, according to the statement.
Walter’s death comes one day after a teen in metro Atlanta collapsed and died during summer workouts with her dance team. Elyse Purefoy, a rising senior at Arabia Mountain High School in Stonecrest, Georgia, was running laps on the school track when she suddenly lost consciousness.
The teen’s father, Hank Purefoy, said he believes his daughter’s death was caused by “extreme heat exhaustion” after her teammates said Purefoy repeatedly asked coaches for a water break but was denied.
“She was a beautiful spirit,” the grieving dad said. “We’re gonna miss her.”
Officials say an investigation into the cause of Walter’s death is underway.
A spokesperson for the family said relatives are requesting privacy at this time but told WFLA: “Our family is heartbroken with the loss of Hezekiah. We are still in shock and asking God to provide us peace.”
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