Scots lead way with un­der-11 head­ing ban

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Roddy Forsyth

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.”

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