Johnny Rider, 19, was awarded $2.4 million in damages this week in an arbitration ruling against the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Back in 2008, when he was just 15 years old, Rider attempted to join the North Hollywood High School football team. One of the tasks he was asked to do at tryouts was run into padded bags – standard operating procedure at most football tryouts. What wasn’t standard operating procedure, however, was Rider doing what he did sans helmet.
He wound up suffering a five-way cervical spine fracture – an injury that continues to haunt him to this very day. Despite having multiple surgeries done to correct his injury, Rider still experiences pain daily, and is expected to need more surgery in the future.
After pushing back against Rider for the better part of four years, the LAUSD offered this statement once the $2.4 million ruling came down.
Via L.A. Times:
“The LAUSD deeply regrets the severe injury suffered by this former student,” said LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist in a statement. “With this ruling, we hope this settlement will bring some comfort to the injured student and his family.”
According to the LAUSD statement, "The district took several corrective measures to assure this sort of injury does not happen again. Recently, nearly 1,000 coaches district-wide gathered for a mandatory workshop on learning how to help protect student-athletes from concussions in sports. This training was offered by Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit group founded to help reduce an athlete’s risk of suffering brain trauma while playing sports."
Rider, now older and wiser, hopes that other kids will use what happened to him as a guide for what not to do on the football field – regardless of what they feel like coaches are demanding of them.
"I'm one of the lucky ones in that I didn't end up paralyzed," Rider told Business Wire (via Yahoo! Sports), "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."