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Heading banned in youth football training

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New guidance says that young children should no longer head footballs during training.

It follows concerns over the potential long-term health risks of heading the ball.

According to the Football Association’s updated guidance, there should be no heading in training for primary school age children in under-11 teams and below. A graduated approach to heading training is recommended for those in under-12 to under-16 teams, with headers remaining a “low priority” and gradually becoming more frequent in training. And for under-18 teams, heading drills should be reduced “as far as possible”, taking into consideration the heading exposure in matches.

There are also specifications on ball sizes and team sizes for each age group.

The guidance, which is effective immediately, applies in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland but does not yet apply in Wales. The Football Association of Wales said its guidance for coaches on children heading the ball was currently under review, with the findings due to be released later this year, BBC News reported.

The rules apply to training sessions only.

FA chief executive officer Mark Bullingham commented: “This updated heading guidance is an evolution of our current guidelines and will help coaches and teachers to 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 to our grassroots coaching without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The updated heading guidance was produced in parallel with UEFA’s medical committee, which plans to publish Europe-wide guidelines later this year.