Thirteen-year-old Zackery Lystedt suffered a serious brain injury during a football game in 2006 when he was allowed to return to play following a concussion. The accident and his recovery inspired the NFL and others to campaign for concussion protection laws in every state.
In the fall of 2006, 13-year-old Zackery Lystedt suffered life-altering injuries when he returned to his junior high school football game following a concussion earlier in the game.
A Long Road from Hospital Bed to Legislative Champion
In the years following his injury, Zackery, his parents, the NFL, the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington, the Washington State Interscholastic Association and others were instrumental in the passage of the Zackery Lystedt Law.
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed that law in 2009. It required “medical clearance of youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion, before sending them back in the game, practice, or training.”
Every Youth Football Player Deserves the Same Protection
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell soon sent letters to the governors of 44 states that did not have legislation like the Lystedt Law on the books.
That began the campaign.
Commissioner Goodell made a pledge to advocate for those laws in every state until each had one.
With local advocates, parents, teachers and health professionals, the NFL and its clubs advocated and lobbied for these laws across the country, from Maine to Alaska.
It took four years.
By 2014, all 50 states had enacted “return to play” laws modeled after the Lystedt Law.
When Mississippi’s law—called the Mississippi Youth Concussion Act—was signed by the state’s governor, Commissioner Goodell said: “This is an important moment for all young athletes and their parents.”
“We congratulated Mississippi leaders on helping to protect young players, no matter what sport they play,” he said. “We will continue to focus on making our game better and safer and setting the right example for all athletes when it comes to health and safety.”
California, Oregon and Virginia are among the states that have since further strengthened their state concussion protection laws.
Key Components of the Laws
The country-wide concussion protection laws are modeled after the three components found in the original Lystedt law:
- Athletes, parents and coaches must be educated about the dangers of concussions each year.
- If a young athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he or she must be removed from a game or practice and not be permitted to return to play—when in doubt, sit them out.
- A licensed healthcare professional must clear the young athlete before he or she can return to play in the subsequent days or weeks.