Heading the ball in training sessions has been outlawed for primary school children under the age of 12 in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland as part of the Football Association’s updated “heading guidance” for the game.
The English, Northern Irish and Scottish Football Associations said in a statement yesterday that they are also set to use a “graduated approach” to headers for 12 to 16-year-olds at grassroots level with immediate effect.
The heading guidelines follow last year’s publication of Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk (FIELD) study undertaken by Glasgow University, which found former professionals were at more risk of dementia.
The FA said the new guidelines will take effect immediately but it will not recommend an end to headers during youth matches.
The FIELD study did not state that heading a ball was the reason behind the increased prevalence of degenerative neurocognitive disease among footballers but the FA said the decision was taken to mitigate any potential risks.
The FA confirmed the updated heading guidance has been produced in line with Uefa’s medical committee, which is seeking to publish Europe-wide guidelines later this year.
Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, welcomed the new guidelines but said the sport’s governing bodies must go further to find any potential links between football and dementia. –Supersport