Lessons will be learned after a teenage rugby player became the first person in Northern Ireland to die from second impact syndrome, John O’Dowd has vowed.
The Education Minister said new information on concussion management and awareness would be distributed to schools after concerns about a lack of knowledge on the issue were raised during an inquest for Benjamin Robinson.
The 14-year-old from Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, collapsed during a school rugby match in January 2011 and died in hospital from head injuries.
Mr O’Dowd said: “Deaths from second impact syndrome are, thankfully, rare - indeed this is the first recorded death of its kind here.
“Nevertheless, I am determined that the lessons from this tragic case are learned and implemented so that we can prevent another family from suffering such a loss.”
Yesterday, Coroner Suzanne Anderson ruled that the schoolboy had died from second impact syndrome which is caused when two concussive-type injuries are sustained within a short space of time.
She said it was the first death of its kind ever recorded in Northern Ireland and possibly a first for the UK.
Benjamin Robinson’s family have argued he should have been taken off the rugby pitch earlier and claim if modern guidelines had been put in place he may still be alive.
Coaching staff and the referee were not made aware of Ben’s neurological complaints and the teenager, who had been representing his local grammar school, continued to play until he collapsed unconscious at the end of the game.
He died in the Royal Victoria Hospital two days later.
His family have promised to fight for Ben’s Law which would bring the UK into line with America where, in 40 states, those involved in contact sports have to sign up to concussion awareness guidelines.
Mr O’Dowd said he would be keen to meet with Benjamin Robinson’s relatives.
The minister added: “The safety and welfare of pupils is paramount and while I do want to provide schools with guidance as quickly as possible in response to this tragic event, I want to make sure it is the right guidance.
“I will want to liaise with the Chief Medical Officer to ensure his professional advice is incorporated.
“I will also want to know how the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) will update their guidance and training in light of this case.
“My top priority as I look at this issue will be ensuring that no other family has to go through what Ben’s family has been through.”
The coroner’s findings will also be presented to the head of Irish Rugby.
Yesterday, the IRFU said it was continually updating and developing education and training campaigns to ensure player safety was prioritised.