Clongowes Wood College’s head injury decision criticised

Peter Robinson has questioned why captain John Molony was allowed to play on

Peter Robinson, the father of 14-year-old Ben Robinson who died from second impact syndrome while playing rugby in 2011, and paediatric neurosurgeon Dr Michael Carter have questioned the decision to keep Clongowes Wood College captain John Molony on the field after he sustained a head blow in the Leinster schools cup quarter-final victory over St Michael's College at Donnybrook on February 8th.

“At schools level we don’t assess, we remove if there is a suspicion of concussion after a head collision,” said Robinson. “It’s not for them to assess on the pitch and do the memory function. That’s in the IRFU guidelines in black and white.”


After viewing the video footage Dr Carter said: “He was down and distressed and I’m not sure he should have played on. If he was my boy I’d have pulled him off.”

Molony was treated on the pitch by two medical personnel, after sustaining a knee to the head while tackling St Michael’s Max Deegan. He subsequently played on.


A Clongowes spokesman stated that Molony was “lucid, showed absolutely no symptoms of concussion and that they went through all the protocols at the time.”

“There were no headaches, no nausea and he was checked after the game and checked again since then. All the protocols were applied.”

The spokesman added that Molony was being kept away from rugby for a week.

However, Robinson is adamant these protocols should not take place on the pitch. “Clongowes are saying he will be kept out of rugby for a week. Why aren’t they following the correct protocols? Either he is concussed or he is not. His legs go from under him. He should have been permanently removed.”

Return-to-play protocols

IRFU return-to-play protocols for those under the age of 20 state: “Players must take a minimum rest period of 14 days before the eight-day graduated return to play (GRTP). The minimum time out is 23 days or three weekends missed.”

That means Molony could, if diagnosed with concussion, pass the GRTP in time for the semi-final against Belvedere on March 3rd.

Robinson continued: “Why did the medics go on the pitch in the first place? What did they see that made them go onto the pitch?

“When we go back to Ben’s case he was assessed three times but allowed to play on with a concussion. We don’t even need a second impact. You are potentially putting someone back on the pitch who is potentially brain damaged.

“John Molony showed signs – unsteady on his feet, unbalanced and falling over, he fitted that criteria. The next clip we see him lying on his back being treated. What were they actually talking to him about? Why go on the pitch in the first place if he was fine?

“Why bother issuing guidelines saying symptoms and signs may not appear for 24-48 hours? Don’t give us those guidelines then.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee last October, Prof John Ryan, consultant in emergency medicine at St Vincent's hospital and Leinster team doctor, said the number of 14 to 18-year-olds reporting with head injuries increased by 41 per cent between the 2012/13 and 2013/14 sporting seasons.

“In the childhood game I think we should be more conservative than we are,” Dr Carter said.

Robinson added: “It’s like my wife Karen says, she was the least qualified around that pitch that day, she put her belief in other people who thought they were qualified and look what happened. If anyone wants to doubt what happened I have my son’s death certificate to prove it. It was the result of mismanagement of concussion.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent