In 2006, Zackery Lystedt returned to play in his high school football game after suffering a concussion and experienced a catastrophic brain injury. After the game, Zackery was treated at Harborview Medical Center, an entity of UW Medicine. At the time, there was no comprehensive law in the United States designed to reduce concussion risk or protect student athletes after they have a concussion.
We worked with the Lystedt family and helped lead a coalition of partners to develop and advocate for a law that regulates athletes’ return to play after a suspected concussion.
Passed in Washington in 2009, the Zackery Lystedt Law requires removing athletes who have a possible concussion from play, no matter the sport. The law is built to encourage athletes to report symptoms of a concussion and protect them once they have one. The essential tenets include:
• Education about concussion for athletes, parents, guardians and coaches before the season begins
• Immediate removal from practice or play of any athlete who has a suspected concussion
• Clearance by a licensed medical professional before the athlete can return to sports
At the time it was enacted, the Lystedt Law was the toughest return-to-play law in the nation. Soon after, all 50 states and the District of Columbia followed suit and adopted the law. The NCAA also adopted similar guidelines.
Our Next Move
We’re working with our colleagues and partners to establish similar guidelines for when a student athlete can return to the classroom following a concussion. We’re working to better understand the needs of students and to develop statewide return to learn policies.