Call Your State Senator: Protect the Safety of Youth Athletes

In October of 2006, Zackery Lystedt was thirteen years old and a gifted athlete who played on his junior high school football team. During a game, Zackery struck the ground headfirst after tackling an opponent. Later in the game, Zackery collapsed on the field and had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital. Zackery spent the next three months in a coma. It took nine months before he could speak his first word and thirteen months before he could move a limb.

In May of 2009, the Washington State Legislature enacted the Zackery Lystedt Law, the nation’s first comprehensive youth sports concussion safety act. Since then, all fifty states, along with the District of Columbia, have enacted youth sports concussion legislation. However, as I alluded to in my first blog post, these state laws can be placed into tiers, ranging from most to least protective. The table below summarizes the strengths and weaknesses that characterize each tier.

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Upon examining the disparity across state statutes, an obvious question arises: given the universal interest in protecting children, why do some states provide greater safeguards than others? The answer lies in lobbying efforts made by key stakeholders: generally speaking, in states where lobbying has been greatest, statutes are stronger. Therefore, in order to ensure adequate safeguards for all youth athletes, and to protect children like Zackery Lystedt, each one of us must contribute to the lobbying effort.

In recent weeks, many people have picked up the phone to call the United States Senator or Representative from their respective state or district regarding national issues. While it is certainly important to participate in political discourse at the national level, especially in this new administration, it is equally, if not more, important to participate at the local level as well. So, I challenge you to find ten minutes today, where instead of going on Facebook or playing Candy Crush, you call your state senator about the inadequacy of your state’s concussion law: the future of our youth depends on it.