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Rugby death dad in fresh plea over concussion on tragic Ben's birthday

By Laura Abernethy

Published 30/05/2016

Fatal injury: Ben Robinson
Fatal injury: Ben Robinson

The father of a Northern Ireland schoolboy who died from concussion sustained during a rugby game has said more needs to be done to educate schools, as he remembers his son on what should have been his 20th birthday.

Ben Robinson was aged just 14 when he collapsed during an Under-15 Medallion Shield match between Carrickfergus Grammar, where Ben was a pupil, and Dalriada following several heavy tackles.

He died two days later from second impact syndrome, having been sent back into action for a further 25 minutes after a severe blow to the head. 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.

As Ben's family remembered him on his birthday yesterday, his father Peter Robinson posted on Twitter: "RIP Benjamin Peter Robinson. Should be celebrating his 20th birthday today. Forever 14."

Since Ben's death Peter has led a high-profile campaign to educate rugby players, coaches and parents about concussion in all levels of the sport.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Robinson said more still needed to be done to raise awareness of the dangers of concussion in schools.

He said he felt he owed it to Ben to "stop the chain breaking ever again".

He explained: "Even two years after his death, his team-mates still weren't educated about concussion. The IRFU and Ulster Rugby sent strength and conditioning coaches to the school afterwards, but there was nothing about concussion.

"(Knowledge about) concussion is a life skill.

"We teach road safety to our kids because roads kill children, but concussion kills children as well."

Peter has worked alongside medical experts and last year Scotland, where Peter now lives, became the first country to launch cross-sport concussion guidelines.

The Scottish Rugby Union has introduced a mandatory course for all club and school coaches, teachers and match officials focusing on managing concussion on the pitch.

The "If in doubt, sit them out" guidelines have also been supported by the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Government.

However, Peter has called for more to be done outside Scotland and has hit back at suggestions that he is "trying to ruin the sport".

He said: "We're actually trying to preserve (the sport of rugby), but there has to be some change.

"Concussion should never be catastrophic if it's managed properly, and players are removed."

He added that he disagreed with recent calls for tackling to be banned in school games but he worried about the size of players in the lower levels of the game. He said: "Players are bigger, stronger, fitter, faster, because of (advances in) knowledge.

"But the very knowledge that keeps them safe, there's a problem getting it to them, because that's the bad side of sport, so let's not talk about it."

He still encourages Ben's younger siblings Gregor and Isla to take part in sport but said he was frightened by what could happen because of the "mismanagement of injuries".

He added: "Sporting bodies say player welfare is a priority, but to me there is still a 'protect the product' mentality.

"There's a middle ground where we all can meet."

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