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10 Years Ago: Lystedt Concussion Law Makes Sports Safer

The Sports Institute at UW Medicine was instrumental to legislation that sparked nationwide change to injury care and prevention among young athletes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Seattle – Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Zackery Lystedt Law, the first comprehensive law in the United States designed to reduce concussion risk and protect student athletes after head injuries.

“The Sports Institute at UW Medicine was proud to stand among the coalition of partners – including the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and the Washington State Athletic Trainers’ Association – that worked with the Lystedt family to enact the Law in 2009,” said Dr. Stanley Herring, co-founder and senior medical advisor of The Sports Institute at UW Medicine. “Since then, we’ve seen a transformation in how communities view sports safety legislation. This law was only associated with nominal costs, but it made youth sports safer. It saved lives.”

The Lystedt Law aimed to mitigate the consequences of concussions in youth sports – through education, information and medical intervention. It was signed into law on May 14, 2009, by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. Similar laws were soon adopted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Since these laws were enacted, studies have shown that the reporting of concussions has increased and injury recurrence has decreased:

  • Coaches are getting the education. Following the Lystedt Law, more than 98% of Washington state coaches reported completing concussion education and more than 95% demonstrated basic understanding of concussion causes and symptoms.
  • More concussions are being reported. After enactment of the laws, the rate of new concussions increased, attributed to increased identification and reporting. The number of concussions documented in Seattle public high schools more than doubledafter passage of the law.
  • Recurrent concussion rates declined. Nearly three years after passage of the laws, the recurrent concussion rate showed significant decline.

The Lystedt Law laid the foundation for athlete and sports safety efforts across the nation. In the past decade, more than 22 states have strengthened existing laws and improved measures for early concussion detection.

Many states, including Washington, are working to establish similarly responsible guidelines regarding how quickly a concussed athlete should return to the classroom.

“While we’ve seen tremendous progress since the Lystedt Law was passed, work remains. For example, there are still gaps when it comes to discovering the most effective ways to educate parents and athletes themselves about the risks of concussion,” Herring said. “The Sports Institute will continue to work with partners to bring increased awareness, resources, and scientific research to help address these remaining challenges.”

For information on national and state sports safety policies, visit The Institute’s Sports Legislation Tracker.