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Tragic Ben's dad: sue football managers who ignore concussion guidelines

By Claire McNeilly

Published 09/09/2016

Christoph Kramer, who can't remember helping Germany win the World Cup
Christoph Kramer, who can't remember helping Germany win the World Cup
Peter Robinson
Peter's tragic son Ben

The father of a schoolboy who died during a rugby match has thrown his weight behind proposed sanctions for Premier League football managers who force concussed players back onto the field of play.

Peter Robinson's 14-year-old son Ben, from Carrickfergus, died from the effects of concussion after being sent back into action during a junior rugby match five years ago.

Ben was the first person in Northern Ireland to die from what is now known as second impact syndrome, having been sent back into action for a further 25 minutes after sustaining a severe blow to the head on January 29, 2011.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson said he was backing the Premier League Doctors' Group, who have warned Premier League clubs that they risk being sued by players if they don't adhere more closely to the guidelines.

"We have to leave the players welfare to the medical staff; it's time to start listening to the brain injury experts," the 49-year-old Lurgan native said.

"Managers should stick with managing and let the medical staff decide if a player is fit enough to return. If management has told a player to return to play before they should then, to me, that leaves them wide open."

He added: "We've got Return to Play protocols now and they should be adhered to. They're there for a reason.

"We've seen them in rugby -football is now playing catch-up."

Mr Robinson, whose lobbying helped prompt the Scottish Government to introduce the 'If In Doubt, Sit Them Out' message for sports organisations, said there was still a lot of work to be done around concussion awareness.

He referred to the incident between Dr Eva Carneiro, who received a handsome payout in settling her constructive dismissive case with Chelsea, after she went on to the pitch to tend to a player (stricken with a knock, not concussion) to the annoyance of the then manager Jose Mourinho.

"It's sad that Ben had to die for concussion to be taken seriously," he said. "Managers can easily lose sight of what's really happening during a game in terms of medical welfare.

"Concussion is a brain injury. Let's use the terms properly and then maybe people will waken up. It's not a knock like you get on your knee. Dealing with the injury isn't the scary thing, mismanaging the injury is."

He added: "Doctors are there for a reason. The bottom line is the player's welfare. That's the priority. Leave it to the medical staff and follow the protocol and then there can't be any comeback."

German footballer Christoph Kramer famously played for 14 minutes of the 2014 World Cup final after being concussed - and can't remember a single moment of the biggest match of his life, even though he helped his country become world champions and has a medal to prove it.

Last month it emerged that a former rugby union player Cillian Willis, who retired after suffering concussion, is taking legal action against his former club Sale Sharks for clinical negligence after being allowed to play on after a head injury in a match three years ago.

Dr Mark Gillett, chairman of the doctors' group, said that the same scenario could arise in football, which, Mr Robinson said, stands to reason.

"We're slow on the uptake when to comes to the dangers of concussion and sometimes legal action is the only way forward to get people to stick to the guidelines that are in place," he said.

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