Teen injured in football tryouts wins $2.4M against LAUSD

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A North Hollywood High School student who fractured his spine during football tryouts four years ago won a $2.4 million arbitration award against the Los Angeles Unified School District, it was announced today.

Johnny Rider, who had not been provided with a helmet or other protective gear, broke his neck in five places during tryouts on July 8, 2008, according to lawyers for the young man, who is now 19.

The LAUSD admitted liability and conceded that the football tryout was unauthorized and unsupervised, and that the sc hool district failed to provide protective equipment to the students, according to papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Defense attorney Arthur C. Preciado did not immediately return a call for comment.

Only the issue of Rider’s damages were addressed in the arbitration. Rider aspired to attend the University of Southern California as a running back and eventually play professional football with the NFL when he participated in tryouts at the school, according to his lawyer.

During a running back drill, Rider ran head first into padded bags that were held by two other students, according to court papers.

None of the boys had been provided with helmets, shoulder pads or any other protective equipment.

Rider suffered a five-way cervical spine fracture and underwent a laminectomy. He is not paralyzed, but continues to experience pain and will require future surgery, according to his attorney, Browne Greene.

“With youth and teens returning to school and engaging in competitive sports, we hope that Johnny Rider’s case sends a strong message to schools, coaches and parents to make sure that protective gear is always worn,” Greene said.

“It does not hurt to overstate the obvious — that helmets and shoulder pads play an instrumental role in preventing life altering injuries and requiring them to be worn during a tryout, practice, or an actual game should always be a priority in any physical contact sport,” the attorney said. “Sadly for Johnny Rider, his dream of playing pro football with the NFL was quashed forever because North Hollywood High School failed to outfit him with proper safety gear.”

Rider, who was 15 when injured, said he considers himself “one of the lucky ones” in that he didn’t end up paralyzed.

“I want kids to know how important it is to wear a helmet, shoulder pads and other protective gear designed for heavy-duty contact sports like football, soccer and ice hockey,” he said.

“If your team or coaches don’t provide you with the right equipment, take a stand and demand to be properly outfitted or refuse to play,” Rider said. “Don’t be afraid to speak out and make lots of noise until you know that they’ve made your safety their number one priority.”

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