On May 14, 2009 the Governor of Washington Christine Gregoire signed the Zackery Lystedt Law. Effective July 26, 2009, the Lystedt Law directly affects youth sports and head injury policies particularly how you, as a coach, need to respond to player injuries.
The new law requires that:
- An informed consent must be signed by parents and youth athletes acknowledging the risk of head injury prior to practice or competition
- A youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury must be removed from play – “when in doubt, sit them out”
- A youth athlete who has been removed from play must receive written clearance from a licensed health care provider prior to returning to play
- A concussion is a brain injury.
- All concussions are serious.
- Concussions can occur without loss of consciousness.
- Concussions can occur in any sport.
- Recognition and proper management of concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is an injury that changes how the cells in the brain normally work. A concussion is caused by a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. Even a “ding,” “getting your bell rung,” or what seems to be a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious. Concussions can also result from a fall or from players colliding with each other or with obstacles, such as a goalpost, even if they do not directly hit their head.The potential for concussions is greatest in athletic environments where collisions are common. Concussions can occur, however, in any organized or unorganized sport or recreational activity. As many as 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year.
Recognizing a Possible Concussion
To help recognize a concussion, you should watch for the following two things among your athletes:
- A forceful blow to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head.
- Any change in the athlete’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning. (See the signs and symptoms of concussion.)
Symptoms Observed by Coaching Staff
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Is confused about assignment or position
- Forgets sports plays
- Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
- Moves clumsily
- Answers questions slowly
- Loses consciousness (even briefly)
- Shows behavior or personality changes
- Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
- Can’t recall events after hit or fall
Symptoms Reported by Athlete
- Headache or “pressure” in head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Double or blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
- Concentration or memory problems
- Does not “feel right”
Adapted from Lovell et al. 2004
Athletes who experience any of these signs or symptoms after a bump or blow to the head should be kept from play until given permission to return to play by a health care professional (see Licensed Health Care Provided list below) with experience in evaluating for concussions. Signs and symptoms of concussion can last from several minutes to days, weeks, months, or even longer in some cases. Remember, you can’t see a concussion and some athletes may not experience and/or report symptoms until hours or days after the injury. If you have any suspicion that your athlete has a concussion, you should keep the athlete out of the game or practice.