Scots lead way with under-11 heading ban
Players under the age of 11 in Scotland are not to head the ball in training and – as far as possible – also in games.
The advice was issued by the Scottish Youth Football Association in response to extensive research by the University of Glasgow, which found that former professional footballers were 3½ times more likely to die of degenerative brain disorders than people of the same age range in the general population. The research did not specify a link between dementia and heading footballs but the association was strongly suggested, especially as former professionals were less likely to die of heart disease and certain cancers, including lung cancer.
The research was conducted solely in Scotland, but the work was commissioned and funded by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Florence Witherow, national secretary of the Scottish Youth Football Association, said: “The SYFA has previously recommended against training drills that encourage repetitive heading of the ball.
“However, in light of Dr Willie Stewart’s study into dementia risks in former professional footballers, we have strengthened the advice. Any drills which involve heading the ball should be removed from all training sessions for age groups up to, and including, under-11s (7 v 7 teams). As far as possible, heading the ball during games at this age group should also be avoided.”
The move makes the SYFA one of the first football bodies in Europe to issue such advice. Witherow went on to stress that any head injury incurred during play should be treated extremely seriously.
“We would also remind all of our coaches and officials that if any player, at any age group, is suspected of having a concussion they must immediately cease playing and should not rejoin the match. Coaches and officials should seek immediate medical advice if symptoms continue or worsen, or if a player is suspected of having lost consciousness.
“It is essential that we take the relevant precautions to best protect our players.”