In October 2006, 13-year-old Zackary Lystedt collapsed following a middle school football game where he had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) –forever changing his life. He was rushed to the hospital. There, it was discovered that his brain was hemorrhaging. Medical professionals determined that he had sustained more than one TBI during that game and was suffering from second impact syndrome. The incident left Zackary paralyzed and unable to speak, with years passing before he could even move his arm or eat on his own. Zackary suffered a hard blow during the game; he was taken out for an injury timeout but, was returned to the field and finished playing out the rest of the game. Zackary received additional hits after he returned to the game. Returning to play within the same game didn’t allow Zachary’s brain to heal from the initial injury and put him at risk for an additional brain injury and the potentially fatal second impact syndrome.
At that time, there was no protocol for an injured player to be cleared by a medical professional before resuming activities. Zackary and his family have made it their mission to share their story of the fateful events of that game and the struggles that Zachary continues to endure, in order to educate people about TBIs. This sparked a piece of legislation designed to address concussions and TBIs in youth sports. The Lystedt Law, signed in May 2009 in his home state of Washington, now requires any player under the age of 18 suspected of having a concussion while playing to be taken out of the game or practice immediately, and is unable to return to play until a licensed health-care professional has given the player medical clearance. Under the law, schools are required to develop return to play guidelines and educational forms to advise regarding head injuries. Additionally, parents and youth athletes must sign informed consent forms annually acknowledging the risks and dangers of sport-related brain injuries.
Since 2009, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed this piece legislation in hopes to not only raise awareness about the dangers of concussions and TBIs, but to also protect players so they may continue to lead normal lives after sustaining a head injury. In fact, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that the number of concussions documented since the installment of the Lystedt Law in 2009 has more than doubled. Increased awareness is thought to be the main contributing factor for this.