Amid Super Bowl buildup, advocates launch The Zackery Lystedt Brain Project

MIAMI – The Zackery Lystedt Brain Project, a first-of-its-kind national initiative to address the problem of youth sports concussions in all 50 states, was announced here this week amid Super Bowl preparations.

The project is spearheaded by the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation in partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine. The goal of the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project is to advance three core principles throughout the country dealing with youth sports concussions through public awareness, education and training, legislation and advancing research to prevent, identify and treat these brain injuries.

The three core principles of the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project are:
(1) To educate and verify that all youth athletes, their parents and coaches understand the risks associated with sports concussions/head injuries/brain injuries/”mild” TBI;
(2) Identify and protect youth athletes so when there is a suspicion of a sports-related brain injury, they will be immediately removed from play or practice;
(3) All youth athletes must be medically evaluated and cleared by a licensed healthcare provider trained in concussion evaluation and management before they can return to play or practice.

The initiative is named after 17-year-old Zackery Lystedt, who sustained a debilitating brain injury playing football in 2006 after returning to play too quickly following a concussion. Through the brave efforts of Zackery and his parents, along with the Brain Injury Association of Washington, the Seattle Seahawks and many local organizations, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed a measure named the “Zackery Lystedt Law” in May 2009. A month later, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed a similar measure, dubbed “Max’s Law”. Both measures were passed unanimously in their respective legislative bodies.

The group announced the national initiative now has 17 states with pending or upcoming concussion legislation, and an additional 25 states with Zackery Lystedt Brain Project concussion coalitions formed and actively working on advancing these core principles without specific legislative action pending. As of Wednesday, only six states had no concussion coalitions.

Patrick Donohue, Founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, stated, “This initiative is pro-sport but more importantly it is pro-youth health. We will advance the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project’s core principles to protect youth athletes in all 50 states. Partnering with the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world will help advance these principles more quickly and allow us to advance the underlining research behind preventing, identifying and treating sports-related brain injuries.

Jim Whitehead, CEO of the American College of Sports Medicine, noted, “The ACSM is pleased to partner with the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation for this historic national effort. As the professional home of many team physicians and other sports medicine practitioners, we know all too well the devastating impact of concussion on youth athletes. The Zackery Lystedt Law is an elegantly simple piece of legislation that affirms return to play as a medical decision. We earnestly call for similar legislation in every state.

The official announcement regarding the launch of the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project was made on Wednesday at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Gillian Hotz, Co-Director of the Miller School’s concussion program and who spoke at the announcement, stated, “Awareness of concussion and brain injury as a huge issue in youth sports has finally started to take hold. Everyone involved in sports needs to be aware of the risks and take action to reduce the potential damage of sports concussions.” The announcement included Marc Buoniconti from the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt and Dr. Lee Kaplan of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who was the special guest at a fundraiser for the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation the evening of the announcement, stated, “Tonight, I had the privilege of joining The Donohue Family and other benefactors of The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation to discuss nationwide brain injury awareness efforts. The foundation’s work to educate American families about the importance of young athletes receiving medical care following a head injury is undoubtedly saving lives. It is imperative that while our children are out having fun on the field or court, that their safety and health come first.”

“I applaud The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation’s work towards awareness, prevention, protection and treatment solutions and am grateful that they are spreading their life-saving message in Florida,” Crist concluded. Governor Crist has agreed to not only spearhead the efforts in Florida but also reach out to governors in other states and encourage them to do the same.

National organizations who have already announced their public support of the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project include: the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; the National Association for Sport and Physical Education; the National Athletic Trainers’ Association; the National Council on Strength and Fitness and NCSF Board for Certification; the National Strength and Conditioning Association; and Pop Warner Little Scholars / Pop Warner Football.

States with pending or upcoming legislation are: AL, CA, CO, CT, FL, ID, MD, MA, MO, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, TX, VA, VT

States with active Zackery Lystedt Brain Project coalitions formed without specific pending legislation are: AZ, AR, GA, HI, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, ME, MI, MN, MS, MT, NB, NH, NC, OH, OK, SC, SD, TN, UT, WV, WI

States without active Zackery Lystedt Brain Project coalitions as of Wednesday, February 3, 2010 are: AK, DE, LA, NV, ND, WY

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