The campaign to raise awareness of the risks of concussion in sport was given fresh impetus locally at the inaugural Carrick area Sports Awards.
Five years after his death as the result of ‘second impact syndrome’ following several heavy tackles during a school rugby match, former Carrickfergus Grammar pupil Benjamin Robinson was the subject of the Special Recognition Award at the Mid and East Antrim Council-hosted ceremony.
Benjamin’s parents, Karen and Peter, were presented with the award in the town hall before an audience of players, managers, supporters and other VIPs.
In the honour citation, Benjamin was described as a “sports fanatic” from an early age who played all games on offer until he found his real passion for rugby from the age of 11.
“Five years ago however this all changed. On the 29th January 2011, contact sport across the world changed forever as a result of a horrific event during a medallion rugby match between Carrickfergus Grammar and Dalriada Grammar.
“During the game, 14-year-old Benjamin ‘the stand out player for Carrick Grammar’ and hugely popular student and local boy, sustained a number of concussive head injuries. As the game ended Benjamin lost consciousness that he never regained, tragically dying from his injuries two days later at the Royal Victoria Hospital, injuries directly attributable to second impact syndrome.
“From then, Benjamin parents Peter and Karen have fought tirelessly raising awareness on second impact syndrome. Both Karen and Peter’s input cannot be underestimated as they influence legislation through their campaigning.”
Peter, who lives in Scotland, began approaching ministers there and his efforts proved invaluable with Scotland leading the world in publishing concussion guidelines featuring Benjamin’s case. In Northern Ireland, the audience heard, the Department for Education and Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure issued guidelines at a joint launch in April 2014 with the theme Recognise and Remove!
“Benjamin thrived at rugby, whilst the legacy he leaves was borne out of the horrific circumstances. It has not been in vain. His passing has been colossal, not just in rugby, nor solely in sport. We hope that including this award will highlight the contribution Benjamin has made to sport.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Robinson paid tribute to the organisers for the recognition and the opportunity to raise awareness again locally. Stressing that concussion is a brain injury which needs to be managed, Mr Robinson said: “It can happen anywhere, and it’s about making people more aware, especially at grass roots level, which does not have the infrastructure the professional game has.”
Mr Robinson said comments such as those by England full-back Mike Brown during his well-documented recovery from concussion were a positive contribution towards changing attitudes. Brown, who had headaches after being knocked out on Six Nations duty last year, said ‘It wasn’t too difficult because I knew what the consequences were and my head was telling me something for a reason.’
“I think when you hear professional players, that’s a big thing. They are role models,” Mr Robinson added.