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NFL's Goodell works to pass concussion law

NEW YORK — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to 44 governors urging them to pass a law similar to one in Washington state that protects young athletes from concussions.

The NFL said in an e-mail Sunday that Goodell's letter will be part of Dr. Richard Ellenbogen's testimony at Rep. John Conyers' forum on concussions in New York on Monday.

Ellenbogen treated Zackery Lystedt, the Washington youth who suffered a brain injury in 2006 after returning to a middle school football game following a concussion. His story prompted Washington to pass Lystedt's Law, which keeps young athletes from returning to play too soon. Other states that adopted similar laws are Oregon, Connecticut, Virginia, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Ellenbogen and Dr. Hunt Batjer head the NFL's new Head, Neck and Spine Committee.

"The Center 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," Goodell wrote. "These injuries are sustained by both boys and girls in numerous contact sports.

"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 Lystedt law contains three essential elements:

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

» 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.

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

"We would urge that similar legislation be adopted in your state," Goodell added. "We believe that sports and political leaders can help raise awareness of these dangerous injuries and better ensure that they are treated in the proper and most effective way. Young athletes, as well as parents, coaches and school officials in your state, will thank you for taking a stand on this important issue."

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