SFA ‘prohibition’ on soccer headers affects young people under 17 and under


According to the Scottish FA, children under the age of 12 can not play football during training sessions.

New guidelines, which come into force today, also suggest that adolescents up to the age of 17 should be limited to headers.

It follows a landmark research by the University of Glasgow that revealed a definitive link between soccer and dementia for the first time.

While the study did not link headers to neurological disease directly, it described it as a potential risk factor, and the SFA said it had a “duty of care” for young players.

The recommendations were welcomed by Dr. Willie Stewart, who led the study in Glasgow, but called for a mandatory ban on children’s headers and said the practice should also be limited in the adult game.

The revised guidelines take effect immediately, but a ban on headers during play is not recommended.

Former professional soccer players are three and a half times more likely to die from degenerative brain disease and five times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the Glasgow University report, released last October, found.

A ban on children under 12 heading balls has also been enforced during training sessions by the Glasgow Catholic Schools Football Association.

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The guidelines note that headers should not be included in training sessions between the ages of six and 11 and should be treated as “low priority” between the ages of 12 and 15.

No more than five headers a week should be coached at age 13, and the number should be increased to 10 headers per practice at ages 14 and 15.

Coaches are also advised to promote a playing style that restricts long passes.

For 16- and 17-year-olds, exposure to headers will be limited to one practice session each week, and coaches should be careful to restrict repetitions during that session.

Walter Smith supports the SFA proposal to ban the heading of soccer balls for children under 12

Although it is necessary to clarify that there is no research evidence to imply that headers at younger ages have led to the results of the FIELD study on professional footballers, Scottish soccer still has a duty of care to young people, their parents and others responsible for their wellbeing in youth soccer,” says Ian Maxwell, chief executive of the Scottish FA.”

“The updated guidelines are designed to help coaches remove repetitive and unnecessary head movements from youth soccer in the early years, with a gradual introduction at an age group deemed most appropriate by our medical experts,” he said.

“It is important to reassure that headers are rare in youth soccer matches, but we are clear that the guidelines are intended to mitigate any potential risks.”

The English FA has revised its rules as well, but without imposing a full ban.


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