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United need more time to discuss heading ban


By Sean McAngus


Turriff United Youth Football Club coach Jamie Stuart says that they need more time to make a final decision about stopping all heading in training and games for under-11s.

This comes after the Scottish Youth Football Association wrote to members last week about the recommendation for footballers under 11 not to take part in heading drills and it should be eliminated from games “as far as possible”.

The guidance comes as research conducted by Glasgow University’s Dr Willie Stewart found footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from dementia.

Turriff coach Stuart who coaches 2011’s age group believes that authorities need to look at another way rather than completely banning it from the game.

He said: “The pathway just now encourages to play with your feet anyway.

“The days of picking up the ball and kicking it out from the goalkeeper is discouraged.

“Players are encouraged to keep it on the ground.

“To be honest a total ban is difficult, you need to look at another way of assessing this. When you get up to 11-year-olds who have no idea how to head a football, it is one of these balance things, as this kind of thing can ruin football and change the whole game.”

He feels that youngsters moving up to academy will find it difficult if they haven’t headed a football before.

He added: “Say when you go up to academy and have never headed a football before.

“You are going to be scared to do it.

“I am a 40-year-old, we used a pure leather ball but now they have a cushion on the balls.

“When you hit the ball full blast it is not near the sting you used to get with your head.

“We have soft training balls which are a weight of a balloon with leather.

“I would have no problems with kids heading these things in drills.

“You use neck muscles in training to dictate how hard you hit the ball.”

He understands that the decision is a “tough” call for the game.

He said:“We need to look at it more.

“You can’t ban it as you are failing those who may progress.

“The game changes massively when it goes into 11 a side, you really need to use your head.

“As it’s in the early stages, they are the governing body, so they will dictate how it goes and it is up to the coaches to go and play at Stonehaven for example to encourage players to keep the ball on ground.

“It is a tough one.”

The SYFA states that, while there is “not yet a definitive link between heading the ball and brain injury”, the advice has been drawn up as “a precaution”.

National secretary Florence Witherow said: “The SYFA has previously recommended against training drills that encourage repetitive heading of the ball.

“However, in light of Dr Willie Stewart’s recent study, we have updated and strengthened the advice to our clubs.

“Coaches and officials are reminded of NHS advice on head injuries and should seek immediate medical advice if symptoms continue or worsen.”

The SYFA will hold further discussions with Dr Stewart and work closely with the Scottish FA in discussing proposals about the ban.



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