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10 years later, Zackery Lystedt still speaking out to protect young athletes

Victor, Zackery and Mercedes Lystedt have been advocating for concussion management awareness for the past decade, after Zackery suffered a severe brain injury in 2006 while playing football.

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – The Zackery Lystedt Law started here in Washington, after Zack suffered a major brain injury while playing youth football. Thanks to help from the NFL and other organizations Zack’s law has now spread to all 50 states. The law requires athletes to receive a written clearance from a health care provider in order to return to play.

October 12, 2016 will mark 10 years since Zack’s brain injury. The Lystedt family came to the Tri-Cities Wednesday to educate the community about concussion management. He and his family truly want to share this message, so other families and youth athletes never have to know the pain they’ve experienced.

"Later on in the game I showed signs of a concussion, but none of my teammates or anybody or coaches knew the signs and symptoms of a concussion,” Zack said.

Zach, 13 at the time, continued to play in a game for his middle school while also suffering from a concussion.

“Knowing that my son was concussed for the entire second half of the game, knowing that he played so hard, he almost played himself to death," said Victor Lystedt, Zack’s father, as he thinks back to that game. He said no game and no practice is ever worth a life.

Zack collapsed at the end of the game and he was air lifted to the hospital, where doctors spent hours trying to save his life. The Lystedt family later learned Zack suffered from Second Impact Syndrome.

He returned to play too soon after his initial concussion, causing massive bleeding in his brain and multiple strokes. According to Sports MD, the brain is vulnerable after the first impact, and can cause brain death in as little as three to five minutes. Because brain death is so rapid, second impact syndrome has a high fatality rate in young athletes.

Zack’s brain injury put him on life support for a week and kept him in the hospital for over three months. It took nine months to say his first word and over a year to move his finger. It took 20 months before he could eat on his own, three years to stand and five years to advance his right leg.

"There’s no one as strong as my son, we don’t want other families to have to prove that," Victor said.

Zack and his family have made it their life mission to educate others about severe brain injuries, like Zack's. They want others to know these injuries are preventable and how to manage concussions to avoid such devastating affects—for all youth sports—boys and girls.

Officials at the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington and the Lystedt's agree that taking sports away from kids is not the answer, but making sure coaches, trainers, medical professionals, teachers, parents and athletes know how to treat concussions properly is.

“What we’re doing is making sure that our kids are staying safe doing the sports they love,” said Deborah Crawley, executive director of the BIAWA. “And isn’t that what we all want?”

Ten years later, Zack said he and his family have made great strides for change.

“It feels good just knowing that I am getting the message out,” Zack said. “But there’s still people dying from the same exact injury.”

Sadly, last fall, Washington lost another football player, Kenney Bui from Evergreen High School right outside of Seattle. The Lystedt’s said until these preventable brain injuries and deaths stop—they never will.


Concussion Resources:

If anyone suspects that they’ve suffered a concussion or brain injury the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington has toll free resources line 877-824-1766.

Open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Professionals are available to answer questions, provide information, and get you connected with resources in your own community that can help.

The alliance works with both pediatrics and adults. They also have resource managers on the ground that can work one-on-one with families, the individual, or the student to make sure they get the best support and services that are available.

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