What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is caused by a blow or motion to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury. The risk of catastrophic injuries or death can be significant especially in youth athletes when a concussion or head injury is not properly evaluated or managed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities. Their data estimates that as many as 3,900,000 sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year.
Read more about "Concussions: What Camps Can Learn from the Zachery Lystedt Law " in a recent issue of CampLine .
Who is Zackery Lystedt and Why is a Law Named for Him?
Zackery Lystedt was a middle-school football player who suffered a debilitating concussion in October 2006. Three years later, the state of Washington adopted the Zackery Lystedt Law. The law requires athletes under the age of eighteen who are suspected of having sustained a concussion to be removed from practice or a game — and not allowed to return — until they have obtained a written return-to-play authorization from a medical professional trained in the diagnosis and management of concussions. The law also stipulates that parents and athletes must read and sign a head injury information sheet annually.
Similar laws have subsequently been passed in other states. In fact, every state now has some form of youth sports concussions law.
Examples of State Laws on Youth Concussions
- Washington — House Bill 1824 
- Oregon — Senate Bill 348 
- New Jersey — A2743 
- Connecticut — Senate Bill 456 
- New Mexico — Senate Bill 1 
- Oklahoma — Senate Bill 1700 
- Virginia — Senate Bill 652 
- Massachusetts — Bill S2469 
- Rhode Island — H7036 
- Missouri — HB300 
To access the laws in each state, visit this excellent resources from the Children's Safety Network. 
Applicability to the Camp Community
While camp programs are generally not held to the requirements of these state concussion laws (unless they conduct a youth sports program, such as a soccer or football camp), the practices and safety measures contained within them are still important to consider.
The American Camp Association (ACA) produced "The Healthy Camp Study Impact Report " in 2011, which indicated that 23.6 percent of injuries to campers and 18.5 percent of injuries to staff were in the head/face/neck region of the body. Prevention of head injuries is such a critical issue that ACA standards for accredited camps require helmets to be worn for all participants participating in:
- Activities involving any kind of motorized vehicle
- Activities involving boarding, in-line skating, and hockey
- Adventure/challenge activities that involve rock climbing, rappelling, spelunking, high ropes (including zip lines), or vertical climbing walls/towers
- All horseback riding activities, including pony rides
Prevention, however, is just the first step. It is important that your camp health care and medical staff understand how to:
- Recognize and evaluate a camper with a concussion
- Manage and treat a camper with a concussion (in partnership with parents)
- Develop policies and procedures regarding when a camper can return to camp activities
- American Camp Association, “The Healthy Camps Study Impact Report,” 2011 .
- American Camp Association, Concussions: What Camps Can Learn from the Zachery Lystedt Law , CampLine, Winter 2011.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Sport-Related Concussion in Children and Adolescents , PEDIATRICS, Vol. 126, No. 3, September 2010, pp. 597-615.
- American College of Sports Medicine, Concussion (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury) and the Team Physician: A Consensus Statement , Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, November 2005.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Concussion and Mild TBI 
- Concussion: Learn to Prevent & Recognize Concussions 
- Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports 
- Heads Up: Brain Injury in Your Practice  (useful for camp doctors and medical staff)
- Heads Up Activity Report 
- Children's Safety Network - List of all State Youth Sports and Concussions Laws 
- Washington State Concussion Law (Lystedt Law), sportsconcussions.org. 
- “Zackery Lystedt Law - House Bill 1824,” tbiwashington.org .
- Alan Schwarz, States Taking the Lead Addressing Concussions , New York Times, January 30, 2010.
- Gary Mihoces, NFL partners with athletic trainers to protect youth from head injuries , USA TODAY, December 7, 2010.
- Howard Frendrich, AP: Concussions report up around NFL , The Washington Times, December 13, 2010.
- NFL working with states on regulations for youth concussions , Sports Illustrated, January 16, 2011.
- The Shake It Off Law , (video) CBS News, May 14, 2009.
- Stephanie Smith, Footballer: ‘Are you OK with destroying a kid's brain for this game?’ , CNN, February 4, 2011.
- Jane Brody, Helping Children Play Safely in Sports , New York Times, June 3, 2013.