Mississippi Lawmakers Look to Pass Youth Sports Concussion Law

Each year, over 50,000 individuals die and 275,000 are hospitalized from traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions.  Of these deaths and hospitalizations, approximately 173,000 concussions are youth sports related.  Sadly, the annual rate of traumatic brain injury among young athletes seems to be on the rise.  In fact, emergency room visits for sports related traumatic brain injuries increased by over 60% within the last decade.

Further, in recent years, new evidence has emerged as to the severe long-term impact of brain injuries on children and teenagers.  Studies show that repeated concussions can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, abbreviated as CTE.  CTE is a progressive, degenerative disorder causing memory loss, depression, dementia, and aggression.  CTE has featured a prominent role in the current NFL settlement.  Athletes are most at risk for CTE.  Researchers at Boston University identified signs of CTE by examining the posthumous remains of numerous sports players, including football players Chris Henry, Tom McHale, and John Grimsley.

In the arena of youth sports, much of the attention on brain concussions stemmed from the story of Zackery Lystedt.  In 2006, Zackery was a thirteen year old boy with a talent for sports and a love of the game of football.    Zack was injured during one fateful game when his head struck the ground after tackling an opponent.  A video of the game shows Zack clutching his head and rocking in pain on the ground.  However, just three plays later, the coach put Zack back in the game.  After playing his heart out in the second half, Zack collapsed.  He was airlifted to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery to remove parts of his skull to relieve the pressure from his swelling brain.  The surgery saved Zack’s life, but he was far from out of the woods.  He experienced multiple seizures in the following days and spent nine months in a coma.  Zack has had to essentially re-learn everything he once knew—undergoing years of therapy to be able to speak, move his limbs, and feed himself.  Zack has come a long way but will likely always be affected by his traumatic brain injury.

Zack became the inspiration behind the passage of youth sports concussion laws.  Washington, Zack’s home town, was the first to pass what was known as the Lystedt Law, in honor of Zack.  The Lystedt Law aims to protect youth sports players from experiencing the devastating effects of concussions.   It requires coaches, as well as volunteers and other adults involved in youth athletic activity, to complete a concussion awareness training course, offered online.  It also requires sports organizing entities provide educational materials on the signs and symptoms of concussions to each child athlete and their parents.  Further, the law requires a player who is suspected of sustaining a concussion be immediately removed from the game.  The player must obtain clearance from a medical professional before being allowed to return to sports activities.

Currently, all states but Mississippi have passed youth sports concussion laws.  Mississippi Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula has twice tried to pass such a law.  In 2012, his bill passed unanimously in the Senate but died in the Public Health Committee.  Watson renewed his efforts in 2013, but the measure failed to gain traction.  In 2014, Watson, backed by Lee Jenkins of the Mississippi Brain Injury Association, and with the support of numerous other organizations, will once again attempt to pass a youth sports concussion law.

If you suspect your child may have suffered a concussion while playing youth sports, the Giddens Law Firm can help.  Our expert team of Mississippi personal injury attorneys has extensive knowledge in the field of traumatic brain injuries caused by sports related activities.  Contact us today at 601-355-2022 to schedule a free initial consultation.