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Advocacy group calls for concussion laws

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With the issue of brain injuries in the NFL gaining attention, an advocacy group said it would push for legislation in all 50 states aimed at reducing sports-related concussions in young athletes.

The Zackery Lystedt Brain Project also will promote greater public awareness of head injuries, and will work to advance research efforts that focus on concussions.

“I think passing the legislation is going to be easy part,” said Patrick Donohue, of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, an organization concerned about brain injuries among children, which launched the project. “The other pieces of this, public awareness and furthering the research, is probably going to be the most difficult component.”

Donohue’s foundation started the sport-specific project in Miami on Wednesday, days before the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints meet for the Super Bowl in South Florida.

Named for a teenager who suffered a brain injury after he returned to a middle school football game in 2006 following a concussion, the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project is pushing for measures modeled after a Washington state law, which requires athletes under the age of 18 who are suspected of having a concussion to get written consent from a licensed medical provider before returning to play.

“As an organization, we decided that this is the type of law that needs to be passed in all 50 states,” Donohue said.

The Washington state statute also carries Lystedt’s name.

“It’s a problem in every sport, and at every level. Zach Lystedt was in middle school and by then kids are big and they’re hitting hard,” said Dan Henkel, of the American College of Sports Medicine, which is partnering with the foundation for the project. “Sports can be dangerous.”

Henkel called Washington’s law an “elegant, beautiful, simple piece of legislation.”

Another law on sports concussions has passed in Oregon, according to the foundation, and several other states, including Pennsylvania and California, have pending or upcoming concussion legislation. The issue is also getting attention on the federal level.

“This project is pro-sport,” Donohue said. “We’re in favor of sports. … This is not a negative, this is a positive.”

On The Net:

American College of Sports Medicine: http://www.acsm.org/

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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