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NFL urges states to adopt legislation to protect youth athletes

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week sent letters to the governors of 44 states that don't have a law aimed at mandating strong regulations concerning concussion guidelines for youth athletes.

The league would like to have laws passed in every state similar to the Lystedt Law in Washington. It's named after Zackery Lystedt, who was permitted to re-enter a game in 2006 after suffering a concussion and ended up in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by NFL.com, and the initiative it promotes will be part of the testimony given by Lystedt's surgeon, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, during a concussion forum in New York, led by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.).

The NFL's leadership, in conjunction with USA Football, has supported extending the Lystedt Law to all states as part of an ongoing education and advocacy initiative about concussions in youth sports. It's also a key priority of the new NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee, chaired by Dr. Ellenbogen and Dr. Hunt Batjer, both of whom will be a part of Monday's forum.

Here are several excerpts from the Commissioner's letter, urging lawmakers to consider more stringent regulations:

» "The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there may be as many as 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions in the United States each year. These injuries are sustained by both boys and girls in numerous contact sports."

» "The NFL has taken a much more aggressive approach in recent years in identifying and treating concussions among our own players. We have implemented an awareness campaign to make certain that everyone in the league, including players and coaches, is better equipped to identify concussion symptoms. Our primary rule is: The medical staffs determine when a player is ready to return, not the coach nor the player himself."

» "Given our experience at the professional level, we believe a similar approach is appropriate when dealing with concussions in all youth sports. That is why the NFL and its clubs urge you to support legislation that would better protect your state's young athletes by mandating a more formal and aggressive approach to treatment of concussions."

The letter also outlines the key elements of the Lystedt Law:

1. Athletes, parents and coaches must be educated about the dangers of concussions each year.

2. 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.

3. A licensed health care professional must clear the young athlete to return to play in the subsequent days or weeks.

Goodell also added: "We would urge that similar legislation be adopted in your state."

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