Wales

Plea over rugby concussion awareness lessons in schools

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Media captionBen Robinson died after suffering multiple concussions during a rugby game

The father of a schoolboy who died after suffering concussion during a rugby match has met Wales' Education Minister Huw Lewis to discuss safety.

Peter Robinson wants compulsory lessons in schools teaching children about the dangers of getting a bang to the head.

Mr Robinson's son Ben, 14, died after suffering multiple concussions during a cup match for his school team in Northern Ireland.

He previously met Scotland and Northern Ireland's education ministers.

Two years ago, Ben was knocked unconscious and suffered from concussion after several high-impact collisions during the game.

However, instead of being substituted, he was allowed to carry on playing. He collapsed just before the end of the game and later died in hospital.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Mr Robinson said had Ben and his teammates been aware of the dangers and the signs and symptoms, he would still be alive.

"At the start of the second half he was involved in a heavy tackle and he lay on the ground for a minute-and-a-half being treated," he said.

"And when he was assisted to his feet... he looked like an old man when he was walking around but he kept being involved in heavy tackles... and there was no chance of recuperating - he didn't get a chance to rest at all.

"He spoke to four people that day and none of them were overly concerned - because of a lack of awareness.

"I suppose the main thing is education at schools level. If you build it into the curriculum then no matter what sport you play, they're aware of the dangers of concussion.

"It's ironic to think if he'd have had a blood injury he'd have been taken off and he would be here today."

Image caption Peter Robinson has already met Scotland and Northern Ireland's education ministers

Mr Robinson met Mr Lewis at the Senedd on Thursday to discuss concussion awareness.

"The safety of young people when playing sport both within and outside school is paramount, especially when playing contact sports like rugby," said Mr Lewis.

"It is important that everyone involved at all levels of sport are aware of the symptoms and dangers of concussion."

The Welsh Rugby Union says it is committed to player welfare and is looking at devising a nationwide education programme for all levels of the game.

Mr Robinson's campaign for greater awareness and education in schools is being backed by one of the world's leading experts on brain and sport injuries, Dr Robert Cantu of Boston University School of Medicine.

"Everyone ought to understand what are the concussion symptoms, everyone ought to understand what is proper concussion management," Dr Cantu said.

"It can be very devastating in the sense that if you mismanage concussion you place especially youngsters at risk of second impact syndrome, which can be fatal.

Playing with fire

"You also place them at risk of receiving further brain trauma which, if it happens to an already injured brain, it's very likely that now you're going to have a very prolonged period of concussion symptoms."

Dr Cantu said there was some form of concussion legislation in 46 out of 50 states in the USA.

In October a former medical advisor to the International Rugby Board warned that rugby's governing bodies were playing with fire when dealing with the issue of concussion.

Dr Barry O'Driscoll told BBC Wales that he wanted mandatory concussion training for those involved with the game from grassroots level upwards.

Mr Robinson met ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland in October to discuss making concussion awareness compulsory in schools there.

Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has already sent letters to schools to raise awareness.

Scottish ministers, as a first step, have agreed to prepare and distribute leaflets.

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