Is banning youngsters from heading footballs in training a good idea?

Football on pitch
Footballs will be spending more time on the ground in youth football training. Credit: Kelvin Stuttard, pixabay.com

The Football Association’s new heading guidance for children has been positively received by footballing figures in the North West.

Last week the FA banned heading in training for under 11 and below groups and placed a gradually decreasing limit on heading in training up to under 18 level.

Bolton Wanderers youth coach David Lee believes that the change is a good one for young footballers.

He said: “Implementing the infrastructure where younger players are not heading the ball is a positive change.

“As players are getting older and developing they will need to head the ball so the gradual increase is important.”

The new guidelines come following research conducted in a University of Glasgow study, which found that former footballers were five times more likely to die from Parkinson’s disease.

An inquest into the death of former professional Jeff Astle, who passed away in 2002, found that the repeated heading of footballs had caused his chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Eamonn McNamara, a recipient of the FA Award for 50 years’ service to football, was involved in youth football in the Lancashire Sunday Football league for 20 years.

He said: “It is absolutely a positive move by the FA. I used to referee in the days that Jeff Astle played and some of the great players of those times who ended up with dementia and sometimes even worse.

“This is a serious problem and the FA are making these changes in the best interests of the game.”

The changes have not been received as well by others, with former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard suggesting alternatives to a ban.

And Lee, who made a combined 481 appearances for Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, Carlisle and Morecambe in his playing days, expressed concerns about how effectively the guidance will be followed.

He said: “I don’t think it will be implemented as strictly as the FA want it to be.

“There will be sessions where you’ve got a double figure number of players and to be able to count how many players individually head the ball throughout the session will be very, very difficult.

“The FA can put the guidelines in but I suppose it’s down to the individual player to regulate how many times they head the ball per session.”