Scotland set to ban young footballers from heading

Fears over dementia link could see under 12s stopped from heading during training.

Scotland could soon become the first country in Europe to ban young footballers from heading the ball during training.

Fears over links between football and dementia could see new rules for under 12s come into affect from March.

The United States have had a similar ban in place since 2015 but Scotland would become the first country on this side of the Atlantic to impose such a restriction.

A report by Glasgow University last October found that former professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of a degenerative brain disease.

That prompted those who run youth football in Scotland to issue guidelines to remove heading from training drills.

Now a ban is set to be imposed by the game’s governing body.

A spokesperson for the Scottish FA said: “Given the study was undertaken using medical records from Scottish footballers, there is an additional onus on the national governing body in this country to take a responsible yet proportionate approach to the findings.

“The presidential team of Rod Petrie and Mike Mulraney, along with chief executive Ian Maxwell, were keen that all possible options were open to discussion but that any final recommendations would be taken with the guidance of the medical experts.

“To that end, productive discussions have taken place within the auspices of the Scottish FA’s Professional and Non-Professional Game Boards, as well as main board, on proactive, preventative measures with particular focus on younger age groups.

“It is our intention to finalise those proposals with the relevant stakeholders in early course and further details will be announced thereafter.”

Brain injury association Headway welcomed the move and called for further research to be carried out.

Chief executive of Headway Peter McCabe said: “In light of the recent study undertaken by the University of Glasgow which suggested that professional football players have a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases than the general public, there does seem to be merits in considering such a move.

“It is understandable that coaches and parents are looking for clarification on this issue. It is therefore vital that more research is conducted to fully understand what risks, if any, are linked to heading lightweight modern footballs.”

The statement continued: “There are questions about the age limit and speculation suggests this will be 12 years. This infers that a child of 13 years is safe to head the ball. How do we know this to be the case?

“The difficulty we face, in the absence of meaningful research relating to the modern game, is where we draw the line in terms of acceptable risk versus the rewards we know healthy exercise can bring.”

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