Belfast Telegraph

We've lost our son, but a law in his name could save others

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

The parents of a tragic teenager who died during a school rugby match have called for the introduction of 'Ben's Law' to prevent any more fatalities.

Ben Robinson (14) was ruled by a Belfast coroner to have died from 'second impact syndrome' after being concussed in a school rugby match – thought to be the first recorded death of its kind in UK.

The inquest was shown video footage of the fateful rugby match which saw the youngster – described earlier at the inquest as "stand-out player" in the match – being involved in three heavy tackles.

However, the coroner ruled that it was the impact of two tackles within four minutes of each other that had caused the 'second impact syndrome' in the young player, leading to a fatal swelling of the brain.

The schoolboy's parents have now vowed to fight for Ben's Law, to safeguard children from concussion sustained during sports, after coroner Suzanne Anderson said that she would send her findings to Education Minister John O'Dowd and Ulster Rugby.

The Carrickfergus Grammar student was also revealed to "have slept in his rugby kit" the night before his fateful rugby game on January 29, 2011, his mother Karen Walton said after the ruling.

Pledging that they would follow-up with the Education Minister, Ben's father Peter Robinson contended that his son need not have died as a result of his injuries.

"We welcome the coroner's findings and the recognition that there was a concussion early on at the start of the second half, that Ben played a full half with concussion."

Mr Robinson said that were tight rules in over 40 states in the US to ensure that a player does not continue to play if concussion is suspected.

"We will meet with the Education Minister to put Ben's case, to fight for Ben's law as why should children here not have the same right as children in America."

After an highly emotive final day in the inquest, Mr Robinson spoke of how "something good had to come from Ben's death".

"We need something positive so that no other family goes through this, it could so easily be prevented."

In her ruling, the coroner said that she concurred with the medical evidence presented and that this was the first reported death of its kind in Northern Ireland, possibly in the UK

She added that "lessons needed to be learnt" by everyone involved in the tragedy to prevent another death and that players needed to report fully their injuries to their coach.

She described how Ben had been eager, even "impatient", to resume play and that it was felt that he was fit to continue.

But his parents still believe that Ben's death could have been avoided had he been taken off the field after the first tackle.

Mr Robinson, who presented the edited footage before the coroner's ruling, illustrated the effects of the tackles on his son's physical and mental abilities during the second half of the match.

At one point, he described his son moving dazed about the field "like an old man" and holding his right temple with his right hand.

A statement from Carrickfergus Grammar's Board of Governors said that Ben's tragic death had "caused such trauma and grief within our school community."

The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby said that the fatal injury sustained by Ben was "highly unusual" in the sport and offered its condolences.

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