Father: Had my Ben been cared for the same way as Amber, he might be alive
The father of a schoolboy who died after sustaining concussion during a rugby match has said his son might still be alive today if he'd been treated the same as a female Linfield football player.
Peter Robinson (49), father of Ben, who died four years ago, said it was correct and proper that Blues forward Amber Dempster was taken off and received urgent hospital treatment after sustaining a blow to the head.
The 22-year-old was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital last Wednesday after losing consciousness following a hefty challenge from a rival player during a match against Cliftonville at Solitude.
The Bangor woman underwent a brain scan but was ultimately given the all-clear and was soon released from hospital.
Mr Robinson said he was relieved she was OK and said the incident had chilling echoes of the tragedy that befell his 14-year-old son.
The Carrickfergus Grammar schoolboy died as the result of 'second impact syndrome' following several heavy tackles received during a schools game against Dalriada in January 2011.
The syndrome happens when a blow causes swelling to the brain before it has recovered fully from an earlier injury.
An inquest later heard that Ben's case was the first known one of its kind in Northern Ireland, and probably the first in the UK.
Since that tragic day his parents have campaigned tirelessly to highlight the risks of concussion, promoting the 'recognise and remove' protocol.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson - whose 20-year-old daughter plays ladies football at a similar level to Amber - believes his son would still be alive today if he had been taken off instead of being repeatedly treated on the pitch and returned to the action.
"Every time I talk about what happened to Ben it's like reliving it all over again," he said.
"Second impact syndrome is mismanaged concussion. Incidents have happened since Ben, and they've all been preventable."
Mr Robinson added: "What happened to Amber was very close to our hearts.
"My ex-wife Karen goes to football matches every week, and she'd say that all too often players aren't taken off when they should be.
"If Amber hadn't been taken off by the Linfield staff, who knows? She's lucky she was removed. It's all down to timing."
Mr Robinson, originally from Lurgan and now retired and living in Edinburgh, said more awareness about concussion was needed.
"Most concussions heal fine, but when they're missed or the player isn't removed that's when there's a real problem," he said.
"In contact sports, injuries are inevitable but mismanagement of the injuries is the greater risk.
"In Ben's case, he was never taken off; instead he was treated on the pitch at least three times. At one point he'd been on the ground for one-and-a-half minutes being treated, then sent back on. In her verdict, the coroner said Ben had played for 25 minutes with concussion.
"Amber was very lucky that her incident happened close to the end of the game; if it had been earlier, who knows what might have happened?"
Mr Robinson added: "Concussion is the invisible injury. If Ben had external bleeding he'd have been taken off."
Ben's 48-year-old mother Karen Walton and his sister were at the game which claimed his life, but Mr Robinson, who is remarried, had to dash home from Scotland.
"I was there two hours after I got the call," he said.
"Waiting for a plane at Edinburgh Airport was the longest day of my life."