A lengthy article published this week in Washington’s Kitsap Sun looks at the issue of traumatic brain injuries – particularly concussions – among young athletes. As the paper notes, “the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 3.5 million concussions – defined as traumatic brain injuries – occur each year on ball fields and (in) sports venues across the country.”
The article focuses on the Zackery Lystedt law, a measure enacted in Washington in 2009 that prevents high school age and younger athletes “with suspected concussions from returning to the playing field without authorization from a licensed health care provider.” The law is named after a junior-high football player who suffered permanent brain damage and disability as a result of a 2006 game. The paper notes that “return-to-play legislation modeled after the Lystedt Law has since been adopted in 39 other states.”
According to SafeKids.org, Oregon’s own youth sports-focused TBI legislation, enacted about the same time as the Washington Law, offers some key safeguards but does not go nearly as far. A important difference is that Washington teens must be pulled from a game or practice if there is reason to believe that they may have suffered a concussion. Here in Oregon removing the athlete from competition or practice only becomes mandatory once they exhibit symptoms of a possible traumatic brain injury. Once an athlete has been pulled from the field both states require written clearance from a medical professional before the player can return to practices or competitions.