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Originally published Friday, May 15, 2009 at 6:22 PM

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Gregoire: "Out of tragedy comes something good"

Governor signs bill Thursday protecting young athletes from brain injuries.

Seattle Times staff reporter

OLYMPIA — Before she signed the country's most rigorous law protecting young athletes from severe brain injuries, Gov. Chris Gregoire took a seat next to 16-year-old Zackery Lystedt.

Behind Lystedt — in his wheelchair and dressed in a sharp black suit that his father picked out — stood more than 50 friends, family and supporters.

"Out of tragedy," the governor said, "comes something good."

In October 2006, Lystedt, from Maple Valley, suffered a concussion in a middle-school football game and returned to the game without a medical evaluation. He took several more hits, and 60 seconds after the game ended, he collapsed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, one that put him in a coma for months and requires extensive therapy more than two years later.

The Zackery Lystedt Law, the first bill Gregoire signed Thursday morning, was proposed and passed to prevent injuries like Lystedt's — or worse, deaths from similar trauma.

"With this bill, you're saving lives every year," said Stan Herring, team physician for the NFL's Seahawks, a clinical physician for the Washington School of Medicine and one of the bill's strongest supporters.

The law requires that when an athlete has suffered an apparent brain injury — whether in a game or practice — he or she cannot return to play without the approval of a licensed medical professional, which includes certified athletic trainers.

"It's important because, what we're hearing in the data, there are a number of brain injuries going unreported," said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. "And the concern is about the safety of these kids."

The WIAA is working with the Brain Injury Association of Washington to draft the educational form that every parent and student will have to sign for participation in middle- and high-school athletics. School districts will add them into the packet they hand out before every season.

The law, which also applies to private youth sports associations who use public fields, is being incorporated into the WIAA's rules clinic, which is required for every head coach.

"We will be encouraging all coaches to study it, because the schools are going to have to educate parents and kids, and the coach is going to have to be a big part of it," Colbrese said. "And not just the head coach, but everybody down the line."

Tom Wyrwich: 206-515-5653 or twyrwich@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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