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Youth Sports Concussion Safety Laws: Washington State

Zackery Lystedt Law was first to address youth sports concussion safety

In May 2009, Washington State enacted the Zackery Lystedt Law, becoming the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive youth sports concussion safety law.  As of February 24, 2014, forty-seven additional states and the District of Columbia have followed suit by enacting strong concussion safety laws.

Key provisions

The key provisions of the Zackery Lystedt Law are as follows:

  • Guidelines/education: Calls for school districts board of directors and state interscholastic activities association to develop concussion guidelines and educational programs.
  • Mandatory consent: Requires youth athletes and a parent and/or guardian sign and return a concussion and head injury information sheet on a yearly basis before the athlete's first practice or being allowed to compete;
  • Immediate removal if concussion suspected: Youth athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion in a practice or game must be immediately removed from competition; and
  • Written clearance before return to play: Youth athletes who have been taken out of a game because of a suspected concussion are not allowed to return to play until after:
    • being evaluated by a health care provider with specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions and
    • receiving written clearance to return to play from that health care provider (this does not strictly bar same day return to play).
  • Legal immunity: A school district complying with the law is immune from liability for injury or death of an athlete participating in a private, non-profit youth sports program due to action or inaction of persons employed by or under contract with the sports program if:
    • the action or inaction occurs on school property
    • the nonprofit provides proof of insurance, and
    • the nonprofit provides a statement of compliance with the policies for management of concussion and head injury in youth sports.

Story behind the law

In October 2006, a 13-year-old middle school football player named Zackery Lystedt collapsed from a traumatic brain injury when he was allowed back into a game just 15 minutes after suffering a concussion. Zackery spent the next nine months in a coma, and even today still sits in a wheelchair, having regained his sight and ability to speak but still struggling to regain strength in his left leg and foot. 

A state representative named Jay Rodne took a special interest in Lystedt case and decided tosee what he could do to protect other youth athletes, including his 10-year-old soccer-playing daughter, Kalyn, and 12-year-old football playing son, Rye, from suffering a similar fate.

In May 2009, Washington state governor, Chris Gregoire, with Zackery sitting next to her in his wheelchair and his father and 50 friends and family looking on, signed the bill into law.

Updated March 1, 2013