Report: Lawsuit filed against Mater Dei after ritual left football player with brain damage

Photo: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY

Report: Lawsuit filed against Mater Dei after ritual left football player with brain damage

Football

Report: Lawsuit filed against Mater Dei after ritual left football player with brain damage

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A lawsuit was filed against Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) after a round of “Bodies,” a form of initiation ritual in which two football players strike each other between the hips and torso until one surrenders, left an athlete with brain damage and a broken nose that required surgery, according to the Orange County Register.

On Feb. 4, the game took place between a 175-pound player and another who was 50 pounds heavier, according to the OC Register. According to records obtained and interviews performed by the OC Register, the injured, smaller player eventually withdrew from Mater Dei and has since encountered issues related to the brain injury.

The news outlet—which did not name the players due to age—referred to the smaller athlete as Player 1 and the larger as Player 2.

In the immediate aftermath of the fight, Player 1 told a member of the coaching staff and trainer Kevin Anderson that he had fallen and hit his head on the sink. Anderson “spoke with the administrative staff at Mater Dei who told him not to call the paramedics and to delay contacting (Player 1’s) parents,” according to a court filing. The parents were notified about an hour and a half after the fight.

The father of Player 1 contacted the Santa Ana Police Department on Feb. 8. Player 1 left the school on Feb. 19. On the withdrawal form, “safety concerns” had been written.

On Feb. 25, a player provided a coach with a video of the fight.

After initially declining to be interviewed by a Santa Ana police investigator, head coach Bruce Rollinson and athletic director Kevin Kiernan agreed to speak on April 21. Rollinson told police he had no knowledge of “bodies” or any other hazing.

On Tuesday, the parents of Player 1 filed a lawsuit against Mater Dei High School and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in Orange County Superior Court. The OC Register reported that the case “alleges negligence, negligence per se-hazing in violation of the California penal code, negligent failure to warn, train or educate, intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The OC Register obtained two videos of the fight, police reports, medical reports, court filings and documents from Mater Dei.

According to a court filing, Rollinson told the father of Player 1, “If I had a hundred dollars for every time these kids played Bodies or Slappies, I’d be a millionaire.”

The father of Player 2 is a volunteer coach who has worked with and tutored players at Mater Dei, Rollinson also said.

Santa Ana PD investigator David Angel reviewed the video and recommended filing batter charges against Player 2. He wrote in a police report:

“It is clear that both of the boys involved were willing participants in ‘Bodies’ game.

“Based on the documented injuries, which included a broken nose and lacerations above both eyes, I am forwarding this report to the Juvenile District Attorney’s Office for filing felony battery charges on (Player 2).”

According to the news outlet, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office does not plan to file charges, as it views the fight as “mutual combat.”

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