Is the Zackery Lystedt Law Working?

The aftermath of Kenmore student Alonzo Colburn’s head injury suggests it is.
what to do after a head injury
Alonzo Colburn was mvp in a tournament game a few months after his concussion

As a writer, there are times when my reporting touches close to home, and it did in this case. Alonzo Colburn, a talented athlete who participates in multiple sports, including hockey, baseball and cross-country, is also my grandson. And, like his parents, I always assumed that if he suffered a serious head injury, it would be in hockey.

We were wrong. His injury occurred while he was riding his skateboard down an incline at the skate park in Woodinville, three years ago. He was wearing his helmet and feeling invincible. “I’d ridden downhill many times—on every hill,” says Alonzo, now 11 years old. “But this time, I leaned back a little too far—I thought, ‘Aww, shoot.’ Then, kaboom, I hit the back of my head. Next thing, I was walking toward a bench, but did a face plant and knocked out a tooth. At least it was a baby tooth.” He remembers feeling nauseous, his back hurt, he was sore all over and he had a headache. He was unconscious at least once, and maybe twice.

“He was pretty subdued,” my daughter, Lainie Colburn, says. “I wasn’t going to take any chances.” They went to the emergency room at Evergreen Hospital. Because of the Zackery Lystedt law, she took the injury seriously and realized Alonzo needed to go to the hospital for evaluation. “In every sport we do, parents are given information by the coaches and quizzed about the signs of concussion,” she says. She knew the warning: “When in doubt, sit them out,” which is a shorthand reference used by coaches for the provisions of the Lystedt law. Today, as a result of the law, parents and coaches are far more knowledgeable about the seriousness of brain injuries and understand that even a mild injury can become serious if a player isn’t removed from play.

Alonzo’s injury was mild, and he was released after a few hours, but was restricted from doing anything in the near term that might make his brain injury worse. A very relieved Lainie was given a checklist of things to watch for over the next few days, including increasing severity of headaches, confusion and concentration or memory problems.

Alonzo’s favorite part of the ER visit was figuring out how to make the bed go up and down. His least favorite thing? Being told he couldn’t play hockey for 10 days in order to give his brain time to heal fully.