Nikolas Visco, a junior on the Riverhead High School football team, is currently at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital after suffering from apparent heat stroke following the team’s first official practice Monday morning, according to school officials.
Visco is listed in critical condition, according to a Stony Brook Medicine spokeswoman.
“This is a truly tragic incident,” Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Visco’s family issued a statement through the hospital Thursday, thanking friends and family for their support.
“He is being taken care of by a very experienced team of doctors and nurses,” the statement said. “We are very grateful and thankful for the care he is receiving.”
After Thursday evening’s practice, Riverhead’s coach, Leif Shay, said he hasn’t slept since Visco went down. He said coaches have been visiting Visco every day.
“It’s a hard time for all of us right now,” said Shay.
Shay said the latest he heard is there has been a “slight improvement” in Visco’s condition. “He keeps showing improvement,” the coach said. “We’re going to keep being optimistic.”
“He’s sedated,” he continued. “They’re trying to keep it so the body has no stress whatsoever.”
It was at the conclusion of Monday morning’s practice, after Shay addressed the team, when the players gathered together, raised their helmets in the air and yelled, “Family!” The players then started to disperse and head off the practice field when it was noticed that Visco had collapsed in the middle of the field. The school’s trainer, Chris Hildebrand, quickly attended to him with others.
At first, it was believed that Visco had suffered an asthma attack because he had asked for his inhaler. An ambulance responded to the scene within three minutes of being called, said Shay. “The people that were there did a fantastic job,” he said.
Shay said he learned of the seriousness of the situation a short time later when he met two of his assistant coaches, Steve Gevinski and Sal Loverde, at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead where he learned that Visco had a 108-degree fever and had lost consciousness. Visco was later transferred to Stony Brook, said Carney.
The Blue Waves wrapped up the first of two practices Monday at around 10 a.m. Section XI rules currently dictate that practices prior to the start of school season cannot take place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to guard against players succumbing to heat.
Even though no heat alert had been issued Monday by Section XI, the team was practicing “as if it was a modified heat alert,” Carney said. The players were given water breaks and practicing in T-shirts and shorts, she said.
Riverhead coaches have been at the hospital with Visco “around the clock,” said Carney.
“Whenever a child gets hurt, it’s just tragic,” Carney said. “We put our thoughts and prayers together for a full recovery.”
According to WebMD, “the medical definition of heatstroke is a core body temperature greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with complications involving the central nervous system that occur after exposure to high temperatures.”
Ten months ago, Shoreham-Wading River football player Thomas Cutinella died following an injury suffered in a game against Elwood/John Glenn High School.
Visco, a lineman who played for the junior varsity team last year, is trying out for the varsity team.
“The kid’s got a great work ethic,” Shay said. “He’s very popular with his teammates.”
Shay said his players are very concerned about Visco and want to see him.
“We need to pray, everyone in Riverhead,” Shay said. “This is one of our own.”
(Photo Caption: Nikolas Visco pictured in his Riverhead uniform. (Credit: courtesy photo)