Belfast Telegraph

Boy died from 'second impact syndrome' concussion in school rugby game

Harrowing ordeal for parents forced to relive tragic day

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

It was an emotion-charged ending to a high-profile inquest.

As the coroner ruled that 14-year-old Ben Robinson died as a result of injuries from "second impact syndrome" concussion in a school rugby game, his mother Karen sobbed amid a strained silence in the courtroom.

His father Peter and stepfather stood side-by-side, tearful but resolute, as representatives from his school, Carrick- fergus Grammar, sat at the back, also close to tears.

Yesterday's final day of the inquest into how a fit and healthy teenage boy died after a schools rugby match was harrowing for his parents, family members and everyone in the room.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson concluded that Ben had died as a result of "second impact syndrome" in the first reported incident of its kind in Northern Ireland, and probably in the UK.

The syndrome – the impact of two concussive-type injuries in quick succession – leading to brain swelling, was said to affect teenagers aged 14-18 engaged in sports.

His parents Karen and Peter and their respective spouses Steven and Carol presented a united front in their grief and determination to ensure that all aspects of how this loved teenager died were examined.

The emotion was heightened when video was shown of the fateful rugby game at the school's pitch against Dalriada School, Ballymoney, on January 29, 2011.

Peter Robinson drew attention to the three incidences that his son was involved in separate tackles in the second half of the game, before he fell to the ground just before the end of the match, never to regain consciousness.

He later died on January 31 at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital after two tests showed brain stem death.

Mr Robinson, with the precision of a seasoned solicitor, highlighted the first tackle when Ben was shown to have fallen face-first on to the ground.

As Ben did not put his hands to protect himself from the fall, and was seen to have had "whiplash" movement, he contended that he momentarily lost consciousness before hitting the ground.

And contrary to evidence given to the inquest, he had not jumped up immediately to play again, and had lain for several moments after the tackle which had left him "dazed" and hurt.

He showed in specially edited footage of how Ben appeared dazed throughout the second half, how he kept holding his right hand over his right temple.

Ben's parents had contended at the inquest that he should have been taken off after the first tackle.

Outside, his mother Karen Walton said that Ben "was the most lovable, loving, likable, and honest kid. He is missed every second of every day."

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