State concussion bill would help protect young athletes

April 6, 2009

By J.B. Wogan

In the third quarter of a middle school football game, Zackery Lystedt made a tackle that changed his life. It was October 2006, and Zackery was 13. Minutes after the tackle, he collapsed on the field.“It’s obvious now, looking at the footage, that he suffered a concussion,” said state Rep. Jay Rodne, a North Bend Republican who represents part of Issaquah.

A concussion is a sudden impact to the head that can lead to a brain injury. Victims may lose consciousness from a concussion, but don’t always.

Rodne took special interest in Lystedt’s case and resolved to prevent similar tragedies.

The lawmaker introduced a bill that would require youth sports programs to educate parents and players about concussions before a season begins. The legislation would also require training for coaches. If coaches or athletic trainers suspect 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.

The legislation cleared a Senate vote April 2 and passed through the House March 4. Now, the bill awaits the governor’s signature.

If Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the legislation about concussion awareness, the rules would take effect by fall, Rodne said.

His children — daughter Kalyn, 10, plays soccer and son Rye, 12, plays football — are involved in sports with a reputation for 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.”

State Rep. Glenn Anderson and state Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, co-sponsored companion bills in the House and Senate in support of the concussion legislation.

“I think the key thing is that there’s just been one too many sports accidents,” said Anderson, a Fall City Republican who represents parts of Issaquah. “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 because 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, said 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 described concussions as 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 mind and cause long-term brain damage, she said.

Skyline Athletic Director Kevin Rohrich handed out pamphlets to parents this year.

Reed said the move is a step in the right direction. She hopes to give presentations about concussions at future school parent nights.

Rodne said the law would not cost anything because educational materials about concussions are available for free on the CDC’s Web site.

The bill calls for the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association to draft guidelines and educational material for school districts to use. The monetary impact of the effort, including staff time and paperwork, would be minimal, WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said.

WIAA annually updates the online seminars school coaches take as part of their preseason preparation. If the concussion legislation is enacted, Colbrese said the next annual update would include information about concussions.

Reach Reporter J.B. Wogan at 392-6434, ext. 247, or Comment on this story at

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One Response to “State concussion bill would help protect young athletes”

  1. BrokenBrilliant on April 11th, 2009 6:39 am

    Thank heavens for this bill. When I was a young athlete, no such awareness existed, and I not only sustained concussions, but I continued to play on. I wanted to be a good team member. I didn’t want to let the team down. I wanted to participate and contribute. And that didn’t help me in the long run.

    I hope this bill passes and teachers, parents, coaches, and trainers all learn everything they can about TBI and concussion and its signs and effects. It’s so very important — for our present and our future.

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