What Are the Youth Football Laws in Your State?

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Tonight on FRONTLINE, watch an encore presentation of Football High, an investigation into the increasingly high stakes game of high school football. Check local listings here.

Every year, an estimated 60,000 concussions occur on high school football fields. Until 2009, however, the issue of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in youth football had barely registered in statehouses across the nation. In the four years since then, every state except for one — Mississippi — has enacted legislation designed to minimize the risk of football-related head injuries.

The rapid spread of TBI laws began in Washington state with the passage of the Zachary Lystedt law in 2009. Lystedt, the law’s namesake, suffered a devastating brain injury during a high school game in 2006. The injury left him on life support for seven days, unable to speak for nine months, and dependent on a feeding tube for two years.

With the backing of the NFL, Washington’s Lystedt law has become the framework for TBI-related legislation across the U.S. Under the law, athletes, parents and coaches must be educated each year about the dangers of concussions. The law also requires players suspected of having a head injury to be removed from the field and prohibits them from returning until cleared by a licensed health care professional.

Still, states vary in their interpretation of the law. For example, in Texas, one of the states FRONTLINE visited while filming Football High, each element of the Lystedt law is in place, but in New Hampshire, the law does not require coaches to attend TBI awareness training. In Wyoming, injured players do not need to receive medical clearance before returning to the field.

The below map provides a snapshot of TBI laws across the nation. Click on a state to learn which protections are in place. [Sources: LawAtlas/Temple University/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Education Week; National Conference on State Legislatures; NFLEvolution.com; USA Football.]

map

Of course, the issue of head trauma in football is hardly isolated to high school athletes. On October 8 & 15, FRONTLINE will air League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, an investigation into the hidden story of brain injuries in professional football. A preview is available below:

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