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LAUSD must pay $2.4 million to football player who broke neck

A 19-year-old North Hollywood High School student who broke his neck during a football tryout practice has won a $2.4-million arbitration award against the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Johnny Rider suffered a five-way cervical spine fracture during a running back drill on July 8, 2008, for which he and other students were not provided helmets or other protective gear.

LAUSD admitted liability for failing to provide protective equipment and acknowledged the football tryout was "unauthorized and unsupervised," according to a statement from Browne Greene, Rider's attorney. The arbitration addressed only the issue of damages.

Rider, 15 at the time of the accident, had aspired to attend USC as a running back and then play professionally. During the drill, he ran head-first into padded bags that were held by two other students. He suffered a five-way break and underwent surgery to fuse his spine.

The award is intended to compensate him for pain and suffering, the lifelong effects of the injury, loss of future earnings and past and future medical care. Greene said Rider, a senior, "lives in chronic pain" and faces more surgery.

LAUSD had proposed that it pay Rider between $200,000 and $300,000, Greene said. Arthur C. Preciado, an attorney who represented the district, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Greene said he hoped the case would send "a strong message to schools, coaches and parents to make sure that protective gear is always worn."

Rider said in a statement that he was "one of the lucky ones in that I didn't end up paralyzed."

"If your team or coaches don't provide you with the right equipment," Rider said, "take a stand and demand to be properly outfitted or refuse to play."


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