Calling foul on headers
Health: SYFA advises that heading ball be eliminated from under-11s soccer
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