UK football chiefs ban heading in training for young children
LONDON, Feb 24, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Football chiefs in England, Scotland and
Northern Ireland on Monday announced a ban on heading in training for
children up to the end of primary school, to take place with immediate
The three football associations issued a statement confirming changes to
their heading guidance, which followed a study that showed former footballers
were 3.5 times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease.
The changes stated there would be no heading at all in the “foundation
phase” — for primary school children — and a graduated approach to heading
in training in under-12s to under-16s football.
There will be no change in terms of heading in matches, taking into
consideration the limited number of headers.
The study, led by the University of Glasgow, did not state that heading a
ball was the cause of the increased prevalence of neurodegenerative
conditions among footballers, but the decision to update the guidelines has
been taken to “mitigate against any potential risks”, the FA said in a
English 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
“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
The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with
UEFA’s medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance
later this year.
Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell said Scottish football had a duty
of care to young people.
“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,” he said.
“It is important to reassure that heading is rare in youth football
matches, but we are clear that the guidelines should mitigate any potential
The daughter of former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle, who died
in 2002 of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which the coroner ruled had been
caused by repeated heading of a football, welcomed the decision but said it
should be more widespread.
“It has to be across the whole of the game,” Dawn Astle told Britain’s
“When my dad died, the footballing authorities said they wanted more
research and more evidence — now they’ve got it. Absolutely they should be
seen to be acting on it.
“For over-18s now there certainly should be some guidelines in for
The United States has banned children aged 10 and under from heading the
ball while there are limits in place for 11-to-13 year olds.