UW News

June 25, 2009

Sports Concussion Program to open at Harborview and Seattle Children’s

Steve Butler & Susan Gregg-Hanson
News & Community Relations

In October 2006, Zackery Lystedt, 13, suffered a traumatic brain injury after making a tackle at the very end of the first half of a middle-school football game. On the first play of the third quarter, he returned to play without a medical evaluation.

At the end of the game, Lystedt collapsed on the field and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center. Doctors discovered bleeding inside his skull and performed emergency surgery to remove blood clots on both sides of the brain. While the surgery succeeded in saving his life, it did not prevent serious brain injury. More than two years later, Lystedt remains dependent on a wheelchair and continues a determined battle to overcome his cognitive and physical disabilities.

On May 14, with Lystedt and his family, friends and supporters in attendance, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a law that is designed to prevent this type of serious brain injury from happening to other youth athletes in organized sports. The “Zackery Lystedt Law” requires that athletes under 18 must have the clearance of a licensed health-care professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussion before returning to play whenever they may have suffered a concussion.

A comprehensive Sports Concussion Program opening at Harborview and Seattle Children’s Hospital this summer will help parents, schools and club officials meet the provisions of this law. The program is composed of health-care providers in rehabilitation medicine, neurological surgery, neuropsychology, sports medicine and radiology, who are trained to evaluate and treat children, teens and adults following head injuries. In addition to providing medical clearance for youth athletes, the program will provide education on the prevention and treatment of concussions to parents, trainers, athletes, athletic directors and many others involved in youth sports. The program is a partnership of UW Medicine, Harborview and Seattle Children’s.

“Concussions can be a serious health problem and they require immediate recognition and proper management,” said Dr. Stanley Herring, co-medical director of the Sports Concussion Program, medical director of the UW Medicine Spine Center at Harborview and a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners. “With this program, our community is taking an important step forward to protect athletes who play organized sports.”

“We see many children, as well as adults, with sports injuries at Seattle Children’s and Harborview Medical Center,” said Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, co-medical director of the Sports Concussion Program and professor and chairman of the UW Department of Neurological Surgery. “This collaborative program enhances our ability to diagnose head injuries and provide appropriate treatments to keep young athletes safe and healthy.”

As many as 3.8 million sports-and-recreation-related concussions occur each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Early identification of an athlete with a concussion is critical, as athletes who return to play too soon following initial injury are at risk for brain injuries, some of which can be catastrophic as happened to Zackery Lystedt,” said Richard H. Adler, president of the Brain Injury Association of Washington. “The Sports Concussion Program brings together some of the nation’s top experts on concussions and brain injuries, and will greatly advance the treatment of these injuries to our kids.”

Concussions can happen to any athlete in any sport, even without loss of consciousness. After a blow or jolt to the head, immediate medical evaluation and care is needed to properly evaluate concussion-like symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting; balance problems or dizziness; double or fuzzy vision; sensitivity to light or noise; headache; feeling sluggish, foggy or groggy; concentration, amnesia or memory problems, including forgetting game plays; confusion or disorientation; ringing in the ears; lack of feeling or emotion; and abnormal sleepiness.

Gov. Gregoire is scheduled to be at Harborview on Tuesday, July 14, for a special event to mark the opening of the Seattle Sports Concussion Program.

For more information on the Zackery Lystedt Law and sports concussions, visit the web sites of the Brain Injury Association of Washington at www.biawa.org or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/Features/Concussion.

For more information about the Sports Concussion Program, call 206-744-0401.

This article was adapted from an article written by Susan Gregg-Hanson and Steve Butler of UW Medicine for the Journal Newspapers on June 1, 2009.