SFA considering under-12 heading ban over dementia links
A ban on children under 12 heading the ball is to be considered by the SFA.
A ban on children under 12 heading the ball is to be considered by the Scottish Football Association after a report linked dementia and football.
The proposal comes less than a week after the publication of a Glasgow University study which found former professional players were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of degenerative brain disease.
With the findings coming out of data on former professional footballers in Scotland, the nation's governing body is looking to lead the way in Europe by safeguarding children.
SFA president Rod Petrie and vice-president Mike Mulraney will submit a number of proactive measures to the board for consideration, including a ban on heading for under-12s.
Other potential measures include tighter guidelines on heading practice, ensuring age-appropriate ball sizes are being used, and guidance to grassroots coaches.
Any steps would be taken with respect to the findings and with the medical experts closely involved, while also putting an emphasis on developing technique.
An SFA spokesperson said: "The new presidential team are determined to be proactive on such a serious issue affecting the national game and are prepared to offer a practical test case in Europe through a range of potential measures being implemented in Scotland.
"While the study says the findings can't automatically be applied to the grassroots game, they are absolutely clear that practical improvements can be implemented until research into the grassroots game is undertaken.
"This is not just about young people heading the ball in matches but taking steps to reduce repetitive heading practice in training. We are fortunate to have a world leading medical team at the Scottish FA led by Dr John MacLean and his guidance will be integral domestically but also within UEFA's Medical Committee.
"Scotland's concussion protocols have been adopted throughout Europe by UEFA and the presidential team will do all they can to support his expert advice on the matter and continue to lead the way on this subject."
The United States is the only country in the world which has a similar ban.
Children aged 10 and under are not allowed to head the ball in games or practice, while there are limits placed in training sessions for 11 to 13-year-olds.
The dementia report, released on Monday and commissioned by the Football Association and Professional Footballers' Association in England, assessed the medical records of 7,676 men who played professional football in Scotland and were born between 1900 and 1976.
Their records were matched against more than 23,000 individuals from the general population, with the study led by consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart of Glasgow University.
He found the risk ranged from a five-fold increase in Alzheimer's disease, through an approximately four-fold increase in motor neurone disease, to a two-fold increase in Parkinson's disease in former professional footballers compared to the general population.