Premier League exploring whether academy players should be banned from heading
The Premier League is looking into whether academy players of a certain age should be banned from heading a football and have emailed all 20 clubs in the wake of a recent study into the link between the sport and dementia.
Last week, a report published and titled ‘Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk’ found footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to suffer from degenerative brain conditions than the general population.
The research looked at 7,676 Scottish footballers born between 1900 and 1976 who were matched with 23,000 people from similar areas and backgrounds.
It led to the Scottish Football Association considering a ban on children under 12 heading the ball and former player Lenny Johnrose, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in March 2017, called for children aged 14 and under to be banned from heading.
The United States is the only country in the world which has a similar ban. Children aged 10 and under are not allowed to head the ball in games or practice, while there are limits placed in training sessions for 11-to-13 year olds.
Johnrose told the PA news agency: “At least in America they have done something straight away. We’re taking chances with people’s lives and it does sicken me.
“I’m going to spend the next few weeks, months, however long it takes speaking to as many authorities as I can to try and get them to do something about it. I don’t see the point in taking that risk.
“It’s not even a big loss to say: ‘At your age, 14 and under, you’re not heading the ball’. It won’t cause any harm or damage to anybody.”
The funding for the study came from the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association while, back in 2017, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor stated he would support the introduction of a heading ban for under-11s.
In the wake of the study, led by consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart of Glasgow University, Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters has emailed all 20 clubs confirming the organising body are looking into the latest findings and deciding whether action should be taken.
The FA’s independently chaired medical and football advisory group does not yet believe there is enough evidence at this stage to make changes to the way modern-day football is played, at any level of the game.
It has reissued best practice coaching advice in youth football, which advises limiting repetitive heading practice and using age-appropriate balls and softer items like balloons or sponge balls.