Primary school children will not be allowed to head the ball during football training after the FA brought in new measures to stop the potential risks of neurodegenerative disease.
The decision was made after a study revealed ex footballers were three times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than regular members of the public.
Matches are unaffected by the new rules, brought in by the Football Associations in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, because heading is far rarer during games.
In a statement about the new rule FA Chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “This updated heading guidance is an evolution of our current guidelines and will help coaches and teachers 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 for our grassroots coaching without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”
Former England international Jeff Astle died from chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 2002, with the coroner ruling the issue had been caused by heading a football during his career.
Daughter Dawn, who has campaigned to ban heading in the game, was happy with the news. “We must take early steps to avoid exposing children’s brains to the risk of trauma,” she told Sky News, “and by saying there’s no heading into training for primary school.
In the new guidance, there will be no heading allowed for 6-11 year olds, for 12-15 year olds it is a ‘low coaching priority’ meaning that can be introduced but remains limited, and 16-17 year olds it must be limited to one training session a week.
As well as the health aspects of the new rules it could also lead to more passing and attractive football in the future with more time spent on more of the technical aspects of the game and away from the physicality of heading.