Belfast Telegraph

Ben's law would save many lives

Editor's Viewpoint

Over the years there has been a number of fatalities involving young sportspeople in Northern Ireland. In some cases their deaths were simple accidents which could not have been foreseen or prevented.

But in other instances, for example the death of Tyrone Gaelic footballer Cormac McAnallen who died from sudden cardiac death, lessons have been learned and measures put in place to screen young people for the condition and to provide automated defibrillators at sports grounds.

The death of Ben Robinson, the 14-year-old Carrickfergus Grammar schoolboy who died after suffering three heavy tackles shortly after each other during a rugby game, is thought to be the first from second impact syndrome in the UK.

It is a syndrome little known here but one which 40 states in the US have introduced rules to deal with. There players are not allowed to continue if concussion is suspected.

Ben's distraught parents now want a similar approach taken here. That, they believe, would mean something positive coming out of a tragic death in the same way that measures after Cormac McAnallen's death have led to widespread screening for cardiac problems. Of course it will mean a strong educational programme so that officials at all levels of rugby, and particularly in schools, will know what signs to look out for.

A lawyer writing in this newspaper today suggests the way forward. All bodies involved in rugby should only get publicly-funded grants if they put in place proper concussion management rules. No-one suggests that any of the bodies is deliberately lax but positive action is now required after identification of second impact syndrome.

Player welfare in such an intense physical contact sport must always be paramount and there can be no excuses for failing to introduce measures to further safeguard participants.

Belfast Telegraph

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