FA bans heading the ball in training for kids under 12
The Football Association has banned heading the ball for kids under the age of 12 in new guidelines.
Children at primary school age will now be banned from heading the ball in training - but rules in matches will not be changed.
The guidelines have been issued in association with the Irish and Scottish FAs and will be immediately introduced.
The change comes after the publication of a joint-funded FIELD study by the FA and the PFA and the establishment of an independently-chaired Research Taskforce to guide on possible changes to heading coaching as well as reviewing concussion management protocols and advice on future research projects.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: "This updated heading guidance is an evolution of our current guidelines and will help coaches and teachers to reduce and remove repetitive and unnecessary heading from youth football.
"Our research has shown that heading is rare in youth football matches, so this guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game."
There was no evidence in the FIELD study, published in October 2019 and carried out by the University of Glasgow, to suggest heading the ball was linked to degenerative neurocognitive disease.
But the change has been made to "mitigate against potential risks" and has been produced in line with UEFA's medical committee, which is looking to publish new guidelines across Europe later this year.
The updated guidance is applicable for all age groups between under-six and under-18s and includes a gradual approach to heading in training.
There will be no heading allowed during the foundation phase with a development phase introduced between under-12 and under-16 age groups.
There is also a requirement for different ball sizes for training and matches for each age group but there is no change in headers in matches due to consideration of the minimal number of headers in youth games.
Patrick Nelson, chief executive of the Irish FA, added: "Our football committee has reviewed and approved the new guidelines. As an association we believe this is the right direction of travel and are confident it will be good for the game, and those who play it."
The Scottish FA's chief executive, Ian Maxwell, commented: "While it is important to reemphasise 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.
"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."
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