Inaugural Team 7:15 Sports Concussion Summit and Dinner in Tukwila brings together families of athletes who have suffered traumatic head injuries.

Share story

TUKWILA — Patti Swank stood at the back of a hotel conference room and needed only a few words to sum up her reason for being there.

“We love sports, we just want them safer,” she said.

Swank’s son, Drew, died last year after suffering a catastrophic head injury while playing a high-school football game for Spokane’s Valley Christian. Swank was with her family Friday night in support of the inaugural Team 7:15 Sports Concussion Summit and Dinner.

The event brought together the families of athletes who have suffered sports-related concussions and traumatic brain injuries to build a sense of community while also raising awareness about the potential dangers of head injuries suffered during athletic competition.

“Over the course of the last year, a bunch of us ended up meeting each other and getting involved in each other’s lives,” said Dirk Knudsen, Team 7:15 founder. “As you start to string these stories together, you realize it’s not just isolated here or there.”

The No. 7 in the group’s name stands for Matthew Newman, who suffered a life-threatening injury as quarterback at Highland High School in Cowiche, Yakima County last season, while the 15 represents Drew Swank. It’s also the time when many Friday-night games begin.

The group stresses it’s not out to keep people from playing sports, but to do more to make them safer.

“It means the world to us,” said Tammy Swank, Drew’s sister, when asked about the event. “If we had this information and this knowledge it would have changed everything for us. I really believe Drew would still be here with us. We do not want this to happen to another family.”

Washington has been at the forefront in concussion legislation.

“This area has become kind of the epicenter of this with the Lystedt Law and it’s really snowballed into a national effort,” said the University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Mark Lovell, who is the co-founder of ImPACT concussion testing and the event’s keynote speaker. “I think there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 states now that have legislation pending, including where I come from in Pennsylvania that are a direct result of the work a lot of people have done here. I think the region should be proud of that.”

Lovell went on to say that further progress depends on grass-roots organizations like Team 7:15.

“I can do this with professional athletes and make the technology available, but it has to have people using it locally,” he said. “A lot of times, people don’t recognize there’s a problem until something very catastrophic happens.”

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com