The change comes in the wake of the FIELD study, which found former professional footballers are 3.5 times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.
Although there was no evidence in the study to suggest heading the ball was the direct cause, the English FA, along with the Irish and Scottish FA’s, have taken measures to mitigate against any potential risks.
The new guidelines, which have been produced along with UEFA’s medical committee, state:
- No heading in training for primary school children – ages six to 11
- Heading should be limited at U12 and U13 level with a maximum of five headers a week
- That number increases to 10 headers per week at U14, U15 and U16 levels
- At U18 level heading drills should be reduced as far as possible
The guidance does not make any changes to the way matches are played.
FA chief executive officer 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.”
Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell added: “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.”Attachments area