Fri, 21 Feb 2020

London - Children in Scotland could be banned from heading the ball in training due to links between football and dementia, reports said on Thursday.

BBC Scotland said the Scottish Football Association (SFA) was set to announce the ban for under-12s later this month.

The United States has had a similar ban in place since 2015 but Scotland would become the first European country to impose such a restriction.

The decision follows the release of a report by the University of Glasgow in October that discovered former footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from a degenerative brain disease than the general population.

A spokesman for the SFA said proposals would be finalised shortly.

"Given the study was undertaken using medical records from Scottish footballers, there is an additional onus on the national governing body in this country to take a responsible yet proportionate approach to the findings," the spokesman added.

However, Professor Willie Stewart, who led the University of Glasgow study, believes a ban on youngsters heading the ball should be just the starting point.

"A move to reduce head impacts in youth sports is a good idea, but I would caution that that's probably not enough," Stewart told the PA news agency.

"It's not enough just to say 'let's take heading out of the game in under-12s' I think we need to look across the entire game - amateurs, seniors, professionals - and say 'where else can we make changes to be effective?'

"And not just in football, look across all sports and think 'what could we do differently?' It's a good start, but I hope that this isn't the end, that by changing under-12s we're somehow solving the problem."

Former Arsenal and Celtic striker John Hartson praised the SFA for their stance.

"Heading was a massive part of my game," he said. "Managers bought me because I could head the ball.

"There have been some serious situations where players have lost their lives and ex-legends suffering from dementia, so I'm glad the SFA are leading the rest of football and doing something about it."

Brain injury association Headway called for further research to be undertaken.

"The difficulty we face, in the absence of meaningful research relating to the modern game, is where we draw the line in terms of acceptable risk versus the rewards we know healthy exercise can bring," said chief executive Peter McCabe.

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