After an October 2019 report which found evidence indicating that former football players have a higher risk of dying due to dementia and other degenerative brain diseases, the Scottish FA is expected to proactively deal with the issue by banning the use of one’s head to hit a football in training among its under-12 players.
Heading the ball is already banned among US children since 2015. According to insider sources, the ban is set to be announced within the month and will be implemented immediately.
The prospective ban will be the first such ban in Europe on head contact. The ban will be announced as soon as all stakeholders have signed off.
John MacLean was one of the three authors of the report that found that former players had a significantly higher chance of dementia than non-players; MacLean is also the Scottish FA’s doctor.
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According to MacLean, while no indisputable evidence exists for the relationship between childhood heading and dementia in old age, it would be prudent to take steps to ensure that, when such evidence is unearthed, the burden caused by the practice would not be insurmountable to society. Because heading is done more during training sessions than in actual matches, MacLean believes that banning training heading among under-12s would be a sensible rule until further evidence is found.
Football Observers Weigh In on Prospective Ban
Former chief executive of the Scottish FA, Gordon Smith, expressed his approval for the proposed ban, noting in an interview that under-12s could still continue to work on their heading skills safely by using softer, lighter footballs without accruing damage that could affect them later on in life.
Giffnock Soccer Centre, Glasgow’s largest youth football club had instituted the same heading ban three months prior and expressed support for the Scottish FA’s own ban. According to Craig Inglis, the club chairman, it is wise to err on the side of caution in ensuring their players’ safety.
The Football Association in UK has so far remain unmoved by the evidence, stating that the purported link between heading and future brain degeneration is unclear; additionally, they stated that heading is not common enough among children’s games to merit their attention.
A number of former players have applauded the move by the Scottish FA, most prominently by former striker John Hartson, who said that as a player renowned for his heading skills, he is worried that the recent reports of ex-footballers with dementia may befall him as well. He said that banning heading among children may reduce the likelihood of such injuries in the future and it was a good thing for the Scottish FA to lead the way.
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