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Cameron Smith

Homecoming king provides reminder of danger of head injuries

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Lest anyone forget why concussion safety is so important for even a moment, the homecoming king at last week's Tahoma (Wash.) High School game is a powerful example of what it takes to come back from a devastating head injury.

Seventeen-year-old Zack Lystedt was elected homecoming king of the Tahoma senior class last Friday and drew a standing ovation by performing what he once considered to be the simplest of physical actions: He stood up. Now, that has become a major accomplishment for the former junior high football player, who suffered severe physical trauma after a game when he was 13.

In that junior high football contest, Lystedt suffered a concussion in the game's early stages, then returned to action in a later quarter. Additional contact sent Lystedt into a coma, and the subsequent road to recovery has been a long and arduous one for the teenager.

"[Zack has improved from] not being able to talk for the first nine months, not being able to move for the first 13 months," the senior's father, Victor Lystedt, told KING 5 News. "Now we're on year four."

While year four has brought some additional improvement to the younger Lystedt's motor skills, the teenager is still bound to a wheelchair. While he claims to miss football, Lystedt has made a significant impact in the Washington state legislature, where he helped champion a bill that requires doctors to give medical approval for a player to return to a game before that player is allowed back in action. The new measures -- called Zack's Law -- are in effect in both Washington and Oregon, and a number of other states are reportedly considering similar measures.

If the Lystedts get their way, Congress will eventually pass nationwide standards on responding to concussion injuries.

"He's made a law to help other people, to make sure nobody has to go through what he's gone through," Nyah Dorgan, Lystedt's best friend, told KING 5.

For his part, Lystedt took the celebratory homecoming nod in humorous stride, insisting that his father "kneel before the king" when he enter the same room, all while wistfully looking at what could have been, if only briefly.

"I do feel like I really want to be out there, but I'm not, and I'm not dwelling that I'm not," said Zack.

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