The Scottish FA has announced new guidelines for all age groups from six to 17 year olds.
Among the guidelines are recommendations not to head the ball in training for primary school children, as well as a graduated approach to heading as youngsters make their way through secondary school.
The guidelines come in response to a study led by the University of Glasgow published in October last year, which revealed insights into the impact heading had on professional footballers long term health.
The study established a link between the repeated heading of footballs and degenerative brain diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The guidelines include the following recommendations:
- Heading should not be introduced in training sessions from the age of six through to 11.
- Heading should be considered a low coaching priority between the ages of 12 to 15 years however training sessions can be introduced. These should be limited to one session of no more than five headers per week at 13 years, increasing to 10 headers per session at 14 and 15.
- It is acknowledged that heading will begin to form part of the game at 12 and should be permitted, however, coaches are encouraged to promote a style of play that limits long passing.
- Heading burden will remain restricted to one training session per week for 16 and 17 year olds and coaches should be mindful of limiting repetitions during that session.
Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “While it is important to re-emphasise there is no research to suggest that heading in younger age groups was a contributory factor in the findings of the FIELD study into professional footballers, nevertheless Scottish football has a duty of care to young people, their parents and those responsible for their wellbeing throughout youth football.
“The updated guidelines are designed to help coaches remove repetitive and unnecessary heading from youth football in the earliest years, with a phased introduction at an age group considered most appropriate by our medical experts.
“It is important to reassure that heading is rare in youth football matches but we are clear that the guidelines should mitigate any potential risks. We will also look to monitor and review the guidance as part of our commitment to making the national game a safe and enjoyable environment for young people.
“I would like to thank our colleagues at the English FA for their collaboration in this process and UEFA’s Medical Committee for their guidance.”
Dr John MacLean: “I am proud that the Scottish FA has taken a positive, proactive and proportionate approach to the findings of the FIELD study. Scottish football has taken a lead on the subject of head injury and trauma in sport, from becoming the first country in the world to produce cross-sport concussion guidelines - If In Doubt, Sit Them Out - to having one of the most advanced medical education programmes in sport.
“Since the publication of the report we have consulted with colleagues on the football and medical sides at The English FA and UEFA and I believe the guidance will help provide reassurance for young players and their parents nationwide.”