It Only Takes One Hit

September 2013

“It’s not worth the rest of your life for one game,” said Zackery Lystedt, 20, whose life has been forever changed because of just that—one game.

Lystedt, a Washington state native, recently traveled with his parents to Buffalo, NY to share his tragic experience of suffering a severe concussion during a football game when he was 13. His interview will appear in an educational video that PUCCS (Program for Understanding Childhood Concussion & Stroke) is producing in collaboration with the Buffalo Sabres production team. The video will educate youth about the symptoms of a concussion, what to do if a concussion is suspected, return-to-play protocol and other pertinent concussion-related information.

Seven years ago, after suffering a concussion caused by a hit during a junior high school football game, Lystedt had to undergo a bilateral craniotomy and was in a coma for more than 30 days, with no movement or speech for nine months. He had to re-learn how to speak, move, eat, drink—all the things most take for granted. Lystedt’s recovery will be lifelong, but he doesn’t hold the game responsible for eternally altering his life.

It Only Takes One Hit “I don’t blame the game of football for my injury,” Lystedt said. “I know it was lack of education.” Lystedt has dedicated his life to concussion awareness. With the help of his attorney and his father, Lystedt developed a first-in-the-nation legislation requiring written medical clearance following a concussion, before returning to practice or competition. The law, known as “Lystedt Law,” has served as the model legislation for 48 states thus far.

The “Lystedt Law” contains three essential elements: athletes, parents and coaches must be educated about the dangers of concussions; if a young athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he/she must be removed from a game or practice and not be permitted to return to play; and a licensed health care professional must clear the young athlete to return to play in the subsequent days or weeks. When Lystedt isn’t participating in one of his therapy sessions, which take up 40 hours of his week, he is educating others about his law.

“I’m saving young people’s lives and I’m fulfilling God’s purpose for me,” Lystedt said. “I believe that 100 percent.” PUCCS, a Buffalo-based non-profit organization, is committed to concussion education and research. The mission of the organization, which was founded in 2011 by Elad Levy, MD, MBA, FACS, FAHA, professor and chair, University at Buffalo’s Department of Neurosurgery, is to provide the tools necessary to understand and prevent concussion as an injury in all sports.

It Only Takes One Hit PUCCS has awarded two grants and a fellowship in support of childhood concussion and stroke research totaling nearly $60,000. “The funding we provide to concussion studies allows experts to better understand and develop the clinical tools necessary to help young athletes manage and recover from the effects of concussion and stroke,” Dr. Levy said

PUCCS has created awareness throughout Western New York and won an award at the Santa Clara Valley Brain Injury Conference in California in 2013 for its accomplishments. PUCCS has educated students in WNY-area schools about concussions and will do so on a greater scale with the launch of the concussion education video featuring Lystedt, concussion experts and other athletes who have suffered concussions.

Article by Amber Lindke