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.
As the Sun notes, “years ago, getting a concussion was almost considered cool, a rite of passage for many athletes.” From a Portland TBI injury lawyer’s perspective we can all be happy that such attitudes are changing rapidly. The seriousness with which America in general, and the youth sports world in particular, now approaches concussions and TBI issues is good to see. There is, of course, still more to be done. As the SafeKids link below indicates, many states still lack strong TBI /concussion protections for young athletes and where laws exist many of them could be stronger.
Kitsap Sun: Concussions remain a head-scratching injury