Football NSW examines rules on headers after UK ban for juniors

Football associations in the UK have banned heading drills for under 11s. Source: Getty

Research findings from the University of Glasgow has prompted three football associations in the UK to ban heading drills due to its links with degenerative brain conditions.

Football New South Wales will study the impact of headers on players after football associations in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland banned children from practicing the skill at training. 

The football associations in the United Kingdom introduced new rules banning headers during training for children 11 years and under, while it will be a low priority for the ages of 11 and 16.   

Football NSW technical director Warren Grieve told SBS news they wanted to do more research before considering a similar ban.

“We have to look at what we’re doing here certainly across the nation and that can start with doing a study particularly around our mini-roos and seeing what the training environment is like and what the playing environment is like," Mr Grieve said. 

Australian footballing icon Tim Cahill was known for his great heading ability.
Australian footballing icon Tim Cahill was known for his great heading ability.
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Mr Grieve said the more objective evidence is needed on the health impacts of headers on younger players. 

“The reality is that heading is a big part of the game - it is at the top level, it is at the bottom level."

He said there are many factors to take into account in making the changes in Australia, including the size and weight of the ball, and the technique used. 

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“Whether it’s (the ball) coming from the forehead or from the air et cetera and just where the impact is taking place on the head in those particular age groups.

“If you look at the way the ball has developed over the years… back in the day it was almost like heading a medicine ball but these days the balls are a lot lighter, they move a lot more in the air as well.”

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Matildas captain and Chelsea striker Sam Kerr is renowned for her ability in the air.
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The heading guidelines follow last year's publication of Football's Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk (FIELD) study undertaken by Glasgow University, which found former professionals were at more risk of dementia.

The English Football Association’s chief executive officer Mark Bullingham said the new guidelines will take effect immediately.

“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."

Additional reporting by AAP

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