Making the Game Safer – One State at a Time

There’s a lot of talk about “making the game safer.”  The NFL recently donated $30 million to fund traumatic brain injury research and launched an aggressive campaign to limit helmet-to-helmet hits.  Just this summer, helmet manufacturer, Riddell, slapped a new warning label on their helmets.  And earlier this month, the NCAA appointed a chief medical officer to spearhead concussion awareness initiatives.

But off the field and out of the spotlight, a quieter crusade is being waged against concussions – aimed at blunting the trauma long before players ever reach the pros.  As of this week, just over forty states and the District of Columbia have passed concussion legislation intended to address and curtail the impact of head injuries in youth sports.

The legislation, based on a model law known as the Lystedt Law, marks a radical departure from the “shake it off” and “get back in the game” attitude of peewee football games past.  At the core of the law are three principles: concussion education for teachers, parents, and coaches; a requirement that youth athletes exhibiting signs of a concussion leave the game (or practice); and an okay from a doctor or medical professional before a sidelined youth athlete can return to play.

The model law was named for Zackery Lystedt, who was just 13-years-old when a concussion nearly ended his life.  During the second quarter of a middle school football game in 2006, Lystedt went down completing a tackle.  He hit the grass and lay clutching his helmet.  Though sidelined for the remainder of the quarter, he was eager to get back in the game and sat out a mere three plays before taking the field again.  As the game drew to a close, he was dealt another blow to the head and collapsed on the field.  It was later discovered that his brain was swollen and in need of emergency surgery to relieve the pressure from the on-field trauma.

Zackery miraculously survived and has used his experience to launch a sort of one-man, cross-country lobbying effort.  He has appeared at the Capitol in DC, received a promise to make the game safer from Goodell himself, and helped push for legislation in almost every state in the country – including Michigan, where Governor Rick Snyder put his signature on the bill earlier this week.

Lystedt’s playing days may be over, but because of his work on the sidelines, tens of thousands of youth athletes will return to the game.

For more on Zackery Lystedt’s story, check out ESPN’s video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb6Bm5skuBA

Posted on October 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Written by

Alexandra Goldstein

Alexandra received her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where she was the President of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Prior to graduating law school, Alexandra worked for two athlete management agencies, as well as the NFL Players Association and NCAA. Her areas of interest are licensing and right of publicity law. With her passion for collegiate and professional sports, Alexandra seeks to make Legal Timeout an accessible source of information about current sports law issues and ongoing topics in the field. A native of San Francisco, Alexandra received her B.A. in mass communication from UC Berkeley and roots for Cal and the 49ers every Saturday and Sunday. Follow her on twitter @LeagueAl.
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