Scottish football bans headers the day before and after matches

28 November 2022, 12:15

Scottish clubs should also pre-plan sessions to reduce the heading burden
Scottish clubs should also pre-plan sessions to reduce the heading burden. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Footballers playing in the Scottish game will be banned from heading the ball the day before or after a game after research found ex-footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from brain disease.

The Scottish FA has also warned clubs to limit the number of exercises involving repetitive heading to once a week.

It follows research led by Glasgow University's Dr Willie Stewart, which found former footballers are at greater risk of suffering with dementia due to repetitive heading.

Dr John MacLean, Scottish FA Chief Medical Consultant, said: “It is important to reiterate that while the FIELD study was not designed to identify the causes of this increased risk, both head injury and heading have been suggested as possible contributing factors to neurodegenerative disease.

“While the research continues to develop, what we already know about heading and its effects on the brain suggests that there is measurable memory impairment lasting 24-48 hours following a series of headers, and that brain related proteins can be detected in blood samples for a short time after heading.

"Brain scan changes have also been reported in footballers that may be linked to heading.

"Therefore, the goal is to reduce any potential cumulative effect of heading by reducing the overall exposure to heading in training."

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The Scottish FA has already banned for under-12s and was the first in the world to introduce concussion guidelines with its 'If In Doubt, Sit Them Out' campaign.

Andy Gould, Scottish FA Chief Football Officer said: “There already exists a lot of data around in-match heading but this latest research has been invaluable in understanding the extent of heading load within the training environment.

“I am grateful to the clubs, managers and players for providing us with the information and perspectives required to facilitate an informed and data-driven discussion which has culminated in the publication of guidelines designed to protect the safety and wellbeing of our players.”

The issue of heading in football is long-standing, hitting the headlines after the death of former West Brom forward Jeff Astle who died aged 59 following a battle with dementia.

The Jeff Astle foundation campaigns for greater awareness of the risks of heading in football
The Jeff Astle foundation campaigns for greater awareness of the risks of heading in football. Picture: Getty

A re-examination of Astle's brain in 2014 found he had died from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain condition normally linked to boxing.

Former footballer Colin Gibson, who played in the 1980s, has also urged people to get tested after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia.