Los Angeles school district forced to pay $2.4 million to teen injured in football tryout

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District found itself on the wrong side of a massive legal judgment in an arbitration hearing, with the public school ordered to pay $2.4 million to a 19-year-old who injured his neck during a running back drill in an unsanctioned football tryout in 2008.

A tryout for the North Hollywood football team, above, left Johnny Rider with a serious neck injury — BeRecruited
A tryout for the North Hollywood football team, above, left Johnny Rider with a serious neck injury — BeRecruited

As reported via press release from California firm Greene Broillet & Wheeler and the Los Angeles Times, among other sources, Johnny Rider was awarded $2.4 million in total compensation for the neck injury he suffered in 2008. The injury has caused persistent neck pain, even after a corrective laminectomy. Rider suffered a five-way cervical spine fracture during a running back drill in open tryouts for North Hollywood (Calif.) High.

According to Business Wire, Rider was not wearing a helmet or any other protection when he was instructed to run into padded bags during the tryout for the school's football team. While the student underwent one laminectomy aimed at correcting the spinal condition, he reportedly will require further surgery to resume a normal life.

In the intervening years, the teen has lived through enduring neck pain, though he never suffered paralysis of any form.

Shortly after the terms of the arbitration were announced, the LAUSD released a statement issuing its condolences for Rider's injury. That statement, accepting the penalties facing it and championing the educational reforms the district has made to improve concussion safety, does little to ameliorate the financial constraints it will place on the public school district, which was already on a tight leash.

For his part, Rider spoke out after the ruling to try and urge other teens to learn from what happened to him.

"I'm one of the lucky ones in that I didn't end up paralyzed," Rider told Business Wire, "which is why 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.

"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. 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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