Rugby concussion law a must in wake of tragedy

Ben Robinson died from injuries sustained on the rugby field. Picture: PA
Ben Robinson died from injuries sustained on the rugby field. Picture: PA
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IRISHMAN Peter Robinson has called for a “Ben’s Law” to be established, forcing rugby teachers and coaches to be trained in treating concussion after a coroner made the historic ruling that his son died from head injuries suffered in a schools game.

The inquest into the death of the 14-year-old was concluded in an emotionally-charged Belfast courtroom yesterday and Coroner Suzanne Anderson ruled that Ben had died from brain injuries caused by “second impact syndrome”. The court watched video footage of the game between Carrickfergus Grammar School and Dalriada in January 2011, which showed Ben left dazed and groggy after a tackle. The coroner stated: “I am satisfied that he sustained concussion in the first four minutes of the second half. Unfortunately, neither the team coach nor the referee were made aware of his neurological complaints and he continued to play.”

It was stated that a coach helped Ben to his feet and that he said he felt fit to continue, but, after further tackles in the second half, the centre collapsed towards the end. He could not be revived by a doctor at the game and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he died two days later from injuries to his brain.

The coroner record an official verdict of death through cerebral oedema and subdural haemorrhage, stating: “I accept the consensus opinion that the features of this death are typical of second impact syndrome which occurs when two concussive-type injuries are sustained in a short space of time. It is exceptionally rare but can affect young people between 14 and 18 whilst engaged in sporting activity. This is the first recorded death of its kind in Northern Ireland and most probably the first in the UK.”

Peter Robinson said: “We welcome the coroner’s findings and the recognition that there was a concussion early in the second half and he played a full half with concussion. Obviously, it has highlighted the need for education and about getting the message out to schools. There exists a policy in America, a template for all of this, where everyone working with children in American Football must be trained in dealing with concussion and letters are sent home warning parents of the dangers of concussion in contact sport and what symptoms they should watch for, which they must all sign and return to school.

“That could be put in place here tomorrow if they wanted. I would love to fight for a ‘Ben’s Law’ to ensure this happened. Why should children in the UK not have the same rights as children in America?

“We lost Ben. There has to be something good come of this, even if just to make sure no other family has to go through this. It is so easily prevented.”