It is said that the Scottish Football Association is set to announce a ban for children under 12 to lead the ball during training due to the links between football and dementia.
A similar ban has existed in the United States since 2015, but the SFA would be the first European country to implement the ruling.
Here the PA news agency takes a closer look at the issue.
Why is such a ban being considered?
Former professional footballers had about 3.5 times higher mortality due to neurodegenerative disorders, but were less likely to die from diseases such as heart disease and some cancers, says new @ UofGMVLS study led by @WillSTEWNeuro in @NEJM
👉 https://t.co/3RlEtHoZx6 pic.twitter.com/imTDKhNyNo
– University of Glasgow (@UofGlasgow) October 21, 2019
A report from the University of Glasgow, published in October 2019, found that former professional footballers were three and a half times more likely to die from a degenerative brain disease than the general population.
What is the background to the research?
Today, the FIELD study – funded by the PFA and @FA – has announced its findings regarding “Football’s influence on lifelong outcomes and dementia risks.” Here Gordon Taylor explains the study. pic.twitter.com/FCTQthZt0J
– Professional football club (@PFA) October 21, 2019
In November 2017, the Professional Footballers’ Association and Football Association commissioned a study entitled “Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk”, or FIELD for short, under the direction of consultant neuropathologist Dr. Willie Stewart of the University of Glasgow. The report assessed the medical records of approximately 7,676 men who played professional football in Scotland and were born between 1900 and 1976, with their records compared to more than 23,000 individuals from the general population.
Who asked for more research?
Jeff Astle (right) died at the age of 59 (PA Archive / PA)
Former England and West Brom striker Jeff Astle died in January 2002, aged 59, of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a form of dementia caused by brain injury. The coroner judged that his death had been caused by the repeated trauma of the ball’s heads and described it as an “industrial disease.” Since Astle’s death, the families of dozens of other former soccer players – including some from the English World Cup in 1966 squad – have come forward to reveal their stories about dealing with dementia and related illnesses. Dawn Astle, Jeff’s daughter, has been campaigning since the death of her father. She is a strong critic of PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor and how the union has historically addressed the problem. Former Blackburn and Celtic attacker Chris Sutton has also spoken out with his father, Mike, against dementia.
Is this because old footballs were heavier?
Researchers from @UEAHSCP and @UEA_Health crowdfunding an important new project to investigate the relationship between #football professional play and the development of #dementia.
Please RT & help spread the word! https://t.co/qanNfDB4Cy #ThinkingWithoutBorders @iwanwroberts pic.twitter.com/gN9IJLa1Ex
– UEA (@uniofeastanglia) January 9, 2020
The game may have continued from leather balls weighed through water and with a thick lace band, but the debate about the long-term impact of course continues. Former English captain Alan Shearer participated in a BBC documentary “Dementia, Football and Me” to investigate whether he was potentially in danger. Meanwhile, former Norwich players Iwan Roberts and Jeremy Goss are part of the ‘SCORES project’ from the University of East Anglia, which aims to track the cognitive function of former professionals, both men and women, over 50 years of age and compare these with age-related physically active persons from the general population.
Do we all just have to stick to a passing game?
Headway has responded to news that the Scottish FA is considering banning children under the age of 12, but has reiterated the need for further research. Https://t.co/2i4oPi9bn3
– Headway (@HeadwayUK) January 16, 2020
Maybe – but taking such a general measure would change the whole dynamic of the sport. The FA says that headlines are considerably less common in children’s games, and analysis shows that on average there are only 1.5 headers per game in youth football. Brain injury association Headway has called for further research around the proposed ages for when it would be “safe” to lead the ball. In the meantime, the Alzheimer’s Society believes that studies should be continued because exercise is generally thought to reduce the risk of dementia – but the organization also emphasizes that more understanding is needed to ensure that everyone can enjoy sport safely.