IRFU agree to meet parents of concussion tragedy teen
THE IRFU has agreed to meet the parents of a teenage boy who died following a freak concussion injury to see if mandatory specialist training for coaches should be introduced.
Benjamin Robinson (14) collapsed on a rugby pitch in Co Antrim in January 2011, and later died in hospital from head injuries received while playing for Carrickfergus Grammar School.
An inquest in Belfast ruled that he died from 'second impact syndrome', the result of two heavy tackles within four minutes of each other, which led to a fatal swelling of the brain.
He is believed to be the first schoolboy rugby player in Northern Ireland and Britain to die from the condition.
His parents, Peter Robinson and Karen Walton, insist their son might still be alive if there was more coaching awareness of 'second impact syndrome'.
They are now calling for the introduction of 'Ben's Law', which would force rugby teachers and coaches to be trained in treating concussion.
Up to 40 states in the US have introduced rules which will prevent sports people continuing to play if concussion is suspected.
An IRFU spokesman said it would happily meet Ben's parents, but insisted that its relevant education and training programmes were "adequate".
"Ulster Rugby has met with the Robinson family on a number of occasions, and the IRFU would of course facilitate a further meeting should such a request be received from them."
He said the IRFU supported relevant protocols laid down by the International Rugby Board (IRB), who "set the regulations in relation to concussion in the game".
Asked if coaches and teachers involved in rugby training must currently undergo mandatory concussion awareness programmes, he said: "There is ongoing training and development but I don't think it's of a mandatory nature. But it would be widespread and certainly utilised by all clubs.
He added: "I haven't seen the proposals in relation to 'Ben's Law', but we believe that the programmes and educational training in place at the moment are adequate. The coroner's report has discussed the highly unusual nature of this case."
He also expressed the IRFU's "deepest condolences" to the Robinson family.
"The training and development that we have at the moment is ongoing, and we continue to develop all of our player welfare programmes."
The IRB was uncontactable last night.
Meanwhile, rugby pundit George Hook has condemned what he claims was the sport's ignorance of concussion injuries.
The Newstalk presenter, writer and former rugby union coach, said: "Concussion is the biggest single problem facing the game.
"The people in charge, the rugby unions and the international rugby board have actually handled them very badly."
He said the problem was endemic in professional sport, where coaches were loath to take a player off.