Son’s Death leads to the Scottish & Ireland Concussion Campaign

Guest post by Peter Robinson

An account of the events by Peter Robinson, father of Benjamin Robinson who died at age 14, after playing a school Rugby game.

29th January 2011

  • Whilst playing in a schools Rugby Union match, Benjamin is accessed 3 times for Concussion and allowed to play on, finally collapsing in the final minute unconscious.

31st January 2011

  • Benjamin does not recover and his Life Support is switched off his organs are donated and in fact go on to save 5 other lives.
  • Initial report describes it as a freak accident.
  • Initial Cause of Death Diffusal Axonal Head Injury.

20th July 2011

  • Karen Benjamin’s Mother meets Professor Jack Crane State Pathologist in N. Ireland.
  • A copy of the Match Video given to family as the police did not analysis the video this was done by myself and it was found to be vital during the inquest in proving that Benjamin had indeed played a full half with Concussion.  Benjamin had been involved in a tackle at the start of the first half he remained on the ground for 1 minute 38 seconds, he was treated by the coach who pulled him to his feet and allowed him to play on.  (It is this incident that we later find out to be where Benjamin had been knocked out).
  • Second Impact Syndrome is discussed, Professor Jack Crane, Professor Brian Herron and Professor Stephen Cooke believe that Benjamin’s injuries are consistent with Second Impact Syndrome, family are informed of this by professor Crane, he advises the family that if Benjamin had been removed from play after the first concussion and protocol had been followed he would probably still be alive today.

Initial Police Investigation fails to establish what happened to Benjamin during the match.

October 2011

  • At a chance meeting by Karen with Mathew Davidson (a team mate) whilst at Benjamin’s grave, discloses that he believed Benjamin had been knocked out during the game.

As a result of the family insistence other statements were noted from a few of Ben’s teammates who stated that Ben had been confused and could not remember the score of the game, a spectator of the game also provided a statement in which he stated that he heard the Referee say Ben should come off now.   The noting of statements from all the players was prevented as the school felt that this was too traumatic for the boys to revisit the events of that day.

An adult member of the opposite team was first to attend to Ben when he collapsed, when he was asked for a statement he declined, the police advised Karen (Ben’s mother) to take the statement herself.

The family decide to instruct a solicitor Gabriel Ingram to try and support the Coroner’s investigation and speak for the family at the Inquest.

We are informed that the School will have a Barrister present to represent them.

30th August 2012 to 6th September 2012 – Initial Inquest – 1 day set aside, family request further time (Inquest actually lasts 6 days)

  • Inquest begins we hear evidence about Benjamin being treated on the pitch, at no stage was he removed to be assessed.
  • Referee gave evidence in which he said Benjamin appeared dazed but he had not heard of Scat 2 PCRT and indeed a year later still did not have a copy.
  • Ben’s coach was also the medic and linesman. Ben had been checked for concussion at least 3 times. (3 occasions that can be seen on video and 1 more confirmed in witness statements).
  • Inquest adjourned as the Coroner asked for further time to establish if other witnesses would come forward.

I re-examine the video and have it slowed down, it becomes very apparent that Ben had suffered a concussion at the start of the second half, throughout the second half of the video he is seen to stagger and hold his head and appears confused.

September 2013

Inquest resumes 1 year later.

  • Coroner concludes that the cause of death is Second Impact Syndrome, possibly the first recorded case of this in the UK, she recommends that changes are made to ensure this never happens again, she writes to the Education Minister for Northern Ireland and the IRFU.
  • Family decide to campaign for change throughout the UK.
  • Contact by email to all UK Education and Ireland Ministers asking to meet with them.

19th September 2013

  • Scottish Minister is first to respond and agree to highlight the issue by issuing a leaflet to all schools and sporting bodies in Scotland, this is issued in January 2014.
  • Agree to use “Concussion can be fatal “and” If in doubt sit them out “ slogans.

15th October 2013

  • Northern Irish Minister and Sports Minister meet family, very positive meeting.
  • Agree lessons need to be learned from Ben’s death.
  • Also agree to slogans in Information leaflet to pupils.

16th October 2013

  • Family travel to Dublin and meet IRFU, speak about children being the high risk group, ask that mandatory training be introduced to schools re coaches.
  • Separate information re children in other words age appropriate.
  • Request that information re Concussion should have the words “ CONCUSSION CAN BE FATAL”

12th November 2013

  • Chief Medical Officer in N.Ireland Mr Michael McBride writes to all GPs warning of the dangers of Concussion and especially Second Impact Syndrome.

November 2013

  • Meeting with Welsh Minister for Education, highlight the Dangers of Concussion and the failings re Ben’s death.

25th November 2013

  • Meeting with Chris Bryant Labour MP re Concussion in Sport also in attendance is Sam Peters from Daily Mail (Paper now running Concussion Campaign) Dr Willie Stewart on conference call.

27nd January 2014

  • Telephone conversation with Southern Irish reps from Education Department re Dangers of Concussion, they will liaise with N.Ireland counterparts re information on Concussion.

22nd January 2014

  • Scottish Government officially launch Concussion in Sport Leaflet to all schools.

4th March 2014

  • Attend Westminster re Concussion in Sport roundtable, chaired by Chris Bryant MP, also in attendance Dr Willie Stewart, Dr James Robson, Chris Nowinski, Lewis Moody, Rory Lamont,  Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Reps from  FA, RFU, and Boxing.
  • Ben’s family also attend meeting with representatives from the English Education Department.

30th April 2014

  • N. Ireland Launch Recognise and Remove Leaflet, Poster and Pocket Recognition Tool, nearly 800,000 leaflets, 16,000 Posters and 26,000 Pocket Recognition Tools. Government working on e-learning modules.  Stated that they would review awareness and if need be to introduce “Ben’s Law.”

Late Spring 2014

  • Welsh Government they are currently working on leaflet and are being advised by Dr Willie Stewart, the leaflet soon to be published.
  • Southern Ireland Government also in talks re Concussion Leaflet.
  • We are waiting on Chris Bryant’s MP findings from the Concussion in Sport round table.

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