The Zack Lystedt Law: Preventing Brain Injuries in Children

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In 2006, 13-year-old Zachery Lystedt, from Maple Valley, WA, suffered a life-threatening brain injury after he returned to play football following a hard hit earlier in the game. This spurred new legislation in Washington state – the strictest in the nation – regarding return-to-play law for concussion in 18-and-under school sanctioned sports. Listen and learn why a leading UW Medicine sports injury specialist, who is also a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners, and a brain injury advocate feel this law is so critical and will save lives.

Stanley A. Herring, Medical Director of the Spine Center at the University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center and Richard Adler, President of the Brain Injury Association of Washington (BIAWA), both speak to not only the medical aspect of this law but also the shift in culture that needs to happen. There is often an attribution of bravery associated with being tough and returning to a game. Coaches need to set a tone that encourages a competitive culture but emphasizes safety above all else. Dr. Herring details some of the signs and symptoms associated with traumatic brain injury. Again, however, he stresses the symptoms are not always the same, and it is absolutely critical for an athlete to be cleared by a medical professional before returning to play.

Dr. Herring defines a concussion and elaborates as to what is occurring in the brain of an individual who has suffered one. As for Zach’s response to the law, Mr. Adlers said, “He [Zach] said it best when he was testifying in front of the house and senate, he would say, ‘Thank you so much.’ And he would be talking in a very strange voice, something that we may have to strain our ears to hear, he would talk in a very slow rhythm, somewhat monotone, and he thanked the senators and representatives in the house for passing this law because it means that no child will have to go through what he has had to go through and his family has had to go through.”

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Produced in association with Harborview Medical Center and UW Medicine


Andrew Schorr:

A big fear for a student athlete is a traumatic brain injury. We’re not just talking about concussion. We’re talking about a serious injury that could be life-threatening or certainly lead to disability. It can happen. Well now in Washington State there’s a law that hopefully will educate coaches and parents and ensure that it doesn’t or it’s greatly reduced. We’ll hear all about it coming up next on Patient Power.

Hello and welcome to Patient Power. I’m Andrew Schorr. This program is sponsored by UW Medicine. This is very topical right now. There is a new law in Washington State aimed at reducing the risk of student athletes, children in particular 18 and under, suffering a traumatic brain injury that could be life-threatening, fatal, or certainly leading to serious disability, and unfortunately it has happened all too often, and what the law has called is the “Zack Lystedt Law.” It’s just been signed into law, and what it says is if a child has signs from an injury on the field of, well if you feel the kid just isn’t right, and we’ll hear more about the symptoms, that they can’t go back in until they’re medically evaluated by a licensed professional.

We’re going to hear all about it, and we’re going to be meeting a leading physician at Harborview Medical Center who knows all about it, but first I’d like to introduce you to a trial lawyer in Seattle who is the president of the Washington State Brain Injury Association. He’s also been one of the attorneys representing young Zack Lystedt who’s a young man, 16-years-old now, who this happened to. He had such an injury and now has permanent disability. All this started when he was 13-years old.

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