Call­ing foul on head­ers

Health: SYFA ad­vises that head­ing ball be elim­i­nated from un­der-11s soc­cer

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY DOU­GLAS BAR­RIE

Chil­dren un­der the age of 11 should avoid head­ing the ball, ac­cord­ing to new ad­vice for clubs from the Scot­tish Youth Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (SYFA).

The group is ad­vis­ing youth coaches to re­move drills in­volv­ing head­ers from all train­ing ses­sions and also rec­om­mends that head­ing “as far as pos­si­ble is also elim­i­nated from games”.

It comes af­ter a re­cent study sug­gested

“There is no de­fin­i­tive link but we must take pre­cau­tions”

for­mer foot­ballers are ap­prox­i­mately three-anda-half times more likely to die from neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Florence Witherow, na­tional sec­re­tary of the SYFA, said: “In light of Dr Wil­lie Ste­wart’s re­cent study into de­men­tia risks in for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­ballers we have up­dated and strength­ened the ad­vice to our clubs.

“We would 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 in the game and should not re­join the match.

“Coaches and of­fi­cials are re­minded of NHS ad­vice on con­cus­sion and head in­jury and should seek im­me­di­ate med­i­cal ad­vice if symp­toms con­tinue or worsen, or if a player is sus­pected of hav­ing lost con­scious­ness.

“Al­though there is not yet a de­fin­i­tive link be­tween head­ing the ball and brain in­jury, it is es­sen­tial that we take the rel­e­vant pre­cau­tions.”

Dr Ste­wart’s study fo­cused on the med­i­cal records of 7,676 men who played pro­fes­sional foot­ball in Scot­land be­tween 1900 and 1976 which were matched against more than 23,000 in­di­vid­u­als in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

His find­ings re­ported the “risk ranged from a five-fold in­crease in Alzheimer’s dis­ease, through an ap­prox­i­mately four-fold in­crease in mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease, to a twofold Parkin­son’s dis­ease in for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­ballers com­pared to pop­u­la­tion con­trols”.

A ban on head­ing for un­der-12s is to be con­sid­ered by the Scot­tish

Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (SFA). Other po­ten­tial mea­sures by the SFA in­clude tighter guide­lines on head­ing prac­tice, en­sur­ing ageap­pro­pri­ate ball sizes are be­ing used and guid­ance to grass­roots coaches.

In the United States, a ban is in place on head­ing for chil­dren un­der 10 and it is lim­ited in train­ing ses­sions for those aged 11-13.

Giffnock Soc­cer Centre, one of Scot­land’s largest youth foot­ball clubs, yes­ter­day an­nounced a ban on head­ing across squads sized up to seven-a-side.

Chair­man Craig Inglis said: “We’re par­ents first and coaches second. In light of the avail­able med­i­cal ev­i­dence, we feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity to safe­guard the fu­ture health of our youngest play­ers.”

RE­SEARCH GOAL: Dr Wil­lie Ste­wart’s study of 7,676 foot­ballers found a higher in­ci­dence of cases of Alzheimer’s and Parkin­son’s

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