Medical Examiner: Teen Who Collapsed During Football Drills was in Cardiac Arrest

Hezekiah Walters

Fourteen-year-old Hezekiah Walters died Tuesday after collapsing during conditioning drills for football at Middleton High School.

A report released Thursday by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner says Walters was in cardiac arrest and ventricular fibrillation, or "v-fib," when the medics showed up to the scene.

The report also reveals that Walters' family said he didn't have any medical history other than seasonal allergies.

According to the summary in the report, about 20 minutes into conditioning drills which included sprints and "ladder drills", Walters stopped for a water break and vomited before collapsing. He died less than an hour and a half after 911 was called.

Dr. Gregory Baker with Advent Health believes Walters might have had a heart condition that caused the v-fib.

"It's not 100 percent that you're going to pick it up but under a thorough history and physical, you should be able to pick up some signs that something's not right and that would warrant a further test," Baker described of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that could cause v-fib.

Baker described what v-fib does to the heart. "This big floppy heart is asked to start beating very fast and it’s not able to keep up and it will start to fibrillate and then it’s downhill from there."

Florida Preparticipation Physical Evaluation

Baker thinks the physical evaluation required by schools is thorough as long as it's completed accurately.

There’s a list of 46 questions on the Medical History portion of the physical evaluation with questions like, "Have you ever become ill from exercising in the heat?" and "Have you ever had a head injury or concussion?"

Baker says family history and warning signs like dizziness, fainting, and shortness of breath are critical to bring to your doctor's attention especially in young people who usually don't have much of a medical history.

Any of those symptoms or family history are reasons for a referral to get an echocardiogram or an ultrasound of the heart.

Friends React

“He was a really good friend,” said Brandon McClain, who considered himself one of Hezekiah’s best friends. “If I had a problem with algebra … he would always help me.”

Friends say he excelled both in the classroom and on the football field where he was excited about playing at Middleton High.

“Everything ‘Hezi’ put his mind to … he successfully does it,” said McClain.

Hezekiah would often talk about his dream of attending FSU and one day earning a master’s degree. Now as friends struggle with all the questions why, they will head off to high school with a very special friend missing.

McClain says he’ll be thinking about his friend as he begins his freshman year.

“I know he’d want us to push through it and become what he knows we want to become.”

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