November 18, 2012

Youth soccer player accuses Arlington school of damaging career

Alyssa White was a promising young soccer player despite a medical condition that causes her chest muscles to swell.

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Alyssa White was a promising young soccer player despite a medical condition that causes her chest muscles to swell.

But an incident in gym class that sent her to the hospital might have left her athletics future in doubt, the Arlington junior high school student argues in a recently filed lawsuit.

Alyssa is a goalie for the American Eagle Soccer Club.

"She was in line for scholarships. They [college recruiters] start recruiting at an early age," said her mother, Sharri White.

Sharri White filed suit against the Arlington school district on behalf of her daughter, alleging that the coach teaching the physical education class last December was negligent because she failed to recognize that Alyssa was in extreme pain during a round of strenuous exercises.

The Ferguson Junior High students were required to do several rounds of so-called "explosions" as punishment after some arrived late to class.

Dennis Eichelbaum, an attorney representing the district, said the coach acted appropriately.

"The district takes the health and safety of its students very seriously," he said.

Eichelbaum added that the exercises used in the gym class are used statewide and nationally.

"This issue is that children have different reactions to exercises. Children have different limitations, and employees aren't always made aware of those limitations," he said.

The Whites' attorney, J.D. Milks, said school officials were aware of Alyssa's condition.

"Officials knew Alyssa was on limited duty, but still they exposed her to a strenuous workout. All of the children were disciplined for what a handful of students did," Milks said.

Alyssa, 13, said that she arrived on time but that several students were late. The teacher ordered the class to perform an exercise in which students start in a squatting position and jump toward the sky with arms extended.

They were told to do 20 but had to start over when several failed to complete the exercises, according to the lawsuit.

The students were told to do 110 explosions along with "bear crawls," sprints and push-ups, the suit claims.

The coach was aware that Alyssa had a doctor's note because of her condition, costochondritis, which causes her chest cavity to swell if she undergoes too much physical activity, the suit claims.

Alyssa said she was in pain and stopped exercising for five minutes, the suit claims. But then she continued, although she complained that her legs felt weak and that she was hurting.

Two days later, she was hospitalized for a week at Cook Children's Medical Center after blood was discovered in her urine, and her kidneys started shutting down.

Alyssa developed rhabdomyolysis, a condition that occurs when skeletal muscles are severely damaged.

After she was released, her pain and muscle weakness continued. She returned to school but was unable to play soccer and had to use the elevator to get to class, her mother said.

Sharri White said she met with school officials and was told to submit her medical bills, which she said total almost $129,000.

She said she has not gotten a response from the district and faces the possibility of foreclosure.

Alyssa still cannot play soccer, but she is now able to walk to school and ride her bike, her mother said.

She is undergoing physical therapy at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, and Sharri White said she hopes her daughter can resume a normal life.

"Alyssa loves school and respects her teachers. She doesn't want to disobey, but I told her that if a teacher tells you to do something that you are uncomfortable with, then don't do it.

"Alyssa is a good student, and for doing well she gets punished and ends up in the hospital."

Elizabeth Campbell,


Twitter: @fwstliz

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