A Belfast medical student has kicked off a campaign to make youngsters more aware of the dangers of concussion in sport.
William Hayhurst has come up with a simple and direct message to help children and teenagers involved in sports to better protect themselves – on and off the pitch.
The 22-year-old's Sideline Concussion campaign is supported by the parents of Benjamin Robinson, the teenage rugby player who died from the rare second impact concussion injury in 2011.
Yesterday his father Peter Robinson said: "I fully support this effort to raise concussion awareness."
The stark message of "sideline yourself or a teammate" is reinforced with useful information on a graded return to sport after having sustained a concussion, which is a temporary loss of mental function.
The campaign will initially distribute 10,000 posters and leaflets to schools and sports club throughout Northern Ireland while spreading the message via social media and the website www.sidelineconcussion.com.
It's backed by former Ireland and British Lions international rugby star Dr David Irwin, paediatric neurologist Dr Deirdre Peake, brain injury charity Headway and Paradox Omega Sport.
Launched at his former school RBAI, where he played for the hockey team, William began to work on the campaign early in 2013 as part of his studies at the University of Manchester.
"I'm focused on getting the awareness out there about concussion as I didn't have that when I was playing hockey. Then I just didn't realise how serious concussion was," he said.
"Sometimes when you are a schoolboy the last thing you want to do is appear weak or let the team down, so there's a sense of pride to play on and dust yourself off.
"We need to change that attitude to concussion and for children themselves to realise that it's a very serious thing," William added.
Dr Peake said that the Royal Hospital for Sick Children treated 1,600 youngsters last year with a range of head injuries, although it was difficult to say what proportion were sports-related.
However, evidence from the US suggested that 5% of all school age children will experience some kind of head trauma.
Dr Peake added: "The campaign is spot on, it's targeted beautifully at young children, who really have no idea of the consequences of ignoring signs of concussion."
Dr Irwin said that the campaign was targeted where it was most needed: "It's very easy to talk about the professional game where there's lot of back-up, but it's at grassroots level where essentially this campaign will have the most impact."
Belfast Giants star Chris Higgins, who has recently recovered from concussion, added: "I think all athletes need to give themselves enough time to recover fully from concussion to avoid further injury and allow the brain to heal itself."
Chris Higgins, a forward with the Belfast Giants, said:
"I suffered my concussion in October when I was blindsided by a hit on the ice.
"I was stunned and dazed for a little, but tried to play on. After becoming nauseous and dizzy our coaches and I made the decision to leave the game. I took two weeks off to recover, which was crucial for the healing process."