State concussion law would protect youths
March 9, 2009
By J.B. Wogan
NEW — 6 a.m. March 9, 2009
In the third quarter of a middle school football game, Zackery Lystedt made a tackle that changed his life. It was October 2006. Lystedt was 13. Minutes after the tackle, he collapsed on the field.
“It’s obvious now, looking at the footage, that he suffered a concussion,” Rep. Jay Rodne (R-5th District) said.
A concussion is a sudden impact to the head causing a brain injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It can involve a loss of consciousness, but doesn’t always.
Rodne took a special interest in Lystedt’s case and resolved to prevent such tragedies from happening.
In January, he introduced a bill that would require youth sports programs to educate parents and players about concussions before a season begins. The bill would also require training for coaches. Lastly, it mandates that if a coach or athletic trainer suspects someone has just had a concussion, they must remove the player from the game, allowing them to return only with approval from a certified health care provider.
Rodne’s 10-year-old daughter Kalyn plays soccer and his 12-year-old son Rye plays middle school football. Both sports have a reputation for causing concussions.
“My daughter plays U11 soccer and I see it all the time out there: They slip and fall, heads intersect with elbows or knees,” Rodne said. “I’ve got a real personal stake in this as well.”
Rep. Glenn Anderson (R-5th District) and Sen. Eric Oemig (D-45th District) have co-sponsored companion bills in the house and senate in support of Rodne’s bill.
“I think the key thing is that there’s just been one too many sports accidents,” Anderson said. “It’s been questionable as to how they’ve been handled. I thought the bill was a step in the right direction.”
Anderson described the bill as preventative in nature – it would protect youth athletes by prohibiting them from returning to the field before they’re ready.
The trouble is, students aren’t as careful as they need to be, according to Cheryl Reed, head athletic trainer and sports medicine instructor at Skyline High School. Trainers and coaches have to be vigilant because some students won’t admit they’ve suffered a concussion, she said.
“They want to keep playing, so they don’t tell anyone that they’ve got a headache,” she said. “They just don’t have the maturity to say, ‘Hey, is this really worth brain damage?’”
Reed said concussions are bruising of the brain. While being knocked unconscious is one type of a concussion, concussions can be caused by minor whiplash, too, she said.
In her experience, football, soccer, lacrosse and basketball were the most concussion-prone sports, though the injury can happen anywhere, she said.
Concussions can have a more severe impact on a young, developing athlete’s mind, causing long-term brain damage, she said.
This year, Skyline Athletic Director Kevin Rohrich handed out pamphlets to parents, a step in the right direction, according to Reed. In the future, she hopes to give presentations about concussions at school parent nights.
“It’s in the works,” she said.
Rodne said the law wouldn’t cost anything, as educational materials about concussions are available for free at the Center for Disease Control’s Web site.
But the bill does call for the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association to draft guidelines and pertinent educational material for school districts across the state to use. The fiscal impact of that work, staff time and paperwork, would be minimal, said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the WIAA office.
Every year, the association updates online seminars that school coaches take as part of their preseason preparation. If the bill passes, the next annual update will include new information about concussions, Colbrese said.
If Gov. Chris Gregoire signs legislation about concussion awareness, the requirements would take effect by fall 2009, Rodne said.
Reach Reporter J.B. Wogan at 392-6434, ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.
On the Web
For Rodne’s bill in the house, go to http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo and enter Bill No. 1824.
For the companion bill in the senate, go to http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo and enter Bill No. 5763.
Center for Disease Control’s information on concussions -