Next up: a look at how youth sports deals with concussions
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
August 30, 2012 · Updated 9:14 AM
It’s tough watching a kid who just got his bell rung stand on the sidelines because you know he wishes he could get back out there.
But, the possibility of a concussion is keeping him there, whether he’s a football player or a center back for the soccer team or the star point guard for the basketball team.
He may look fine. It’s not like he just twisted his ankle when his cleat got stuck in the turf or hyperextended his knee, the kind of injury which has some visible evidence when you see it happen as well as afterward when the athlete limps to the sideline.
In fact, some symptoms of a concussion may not even present themselves immediately.
Safety, however, is paramount whether it’s a sprained ankle, torn meniscus and especially a concussion.
During the past two years — and the past few months in particular — I’ve thought a lot about the repercussions of playing with an undiagnosed concussion.
In October 2010 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assessed some of the biggest fines ever on players for overly-aggressive hits in an effort to promote a level of safety, particularly to prevent concussions, much to the chagrin of football purists and defensive players.
At the time, I knew Goodell had just met Maple Valley resident Zack Lystedt, who was a senior at Tahoma High at that time.
Lystedt played football once upon a time until he went back into a junior high football game in 2006 that not only ended his athletic career but changed his life. I would say dramatically, but that would be a gross understatement.
So, when those fines were handed down, I was certain that was a result of Lystedt’s meeting with Goodell.
Though at that point I hadn’t met Lystedt, I had followed his story, I had a superficial understanding of what he had been through and I also knew the impact he already had on youth sports as well as on the community.
A law named for Lystedt was passed by the Washington state legislature in 2009 that outlined clear and stringent rules for dealing with youth players suspected to have suffered a concussion. Since then nearly 40 states have passed similar laws.
Little more than a year ago I watched Lystedt walk a handful of steps on the stage of White River Amphitheater to collect his Tahoma High diploma. It was a moment that brought the whole place to a hush before his entire class rose as one in a thunder of applause for their classmate.
As graduation approached earlier this year, I decided I wanted to see how Lystedt was doing since I had last seen him, so I visited him and his parents at their Maple Valley home.
Before I went there, the seed of an idea had been planted in my mind: what if I used the story about Zack as a starting point for something bigger?
There’s a larger picture, there’s his mission in life, to raise awareness about concussion prevention particularly in youth sports so no one has to go what Lystedt went through.
I haven’t done a series for our sports pages yet. And it seemed to me like using Lystedt’s experiences as a jumping off point to talk about concussions in youth sports, particularly high school athletics, was a good idea.
So, the plan is to run the first part next week. I plan to talk to athletes, coaches, a neurologist, and someone who works with high school students who are interested in athletic training to find out how he teaches them to recognize a concussion.
I want to know how things have changed in the past three years. I want to know what else doctors, coaches and trainers would like to see improve. I want to talk to student-athletes who have suffered concussions and find out what their experience was like, how they handled sitting on the sidelines with a seemingly invisible injury, and what they’ve done differently since they returned to sport.
This seems like a good time of year to do it, too, as fall sports practices will soon lead into competition for high school students while college football and the NFL are days away from starting.
So, that’s the plan. Look for the first part Sept. 7.
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.