UEFA recently announced that while it is conducting research into how frequently youth players from different countries are heading footballs in practice and in matches, it has put on hold a second project to assess the effect heading might have on players’ brain structure and function.
“For years, we and other campaigners have been calling for the football authorities to commission meaningful and robust research into the issue,” said Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway.
“It cannot be right that we still do not have enough evidence to draw a meaningful conclusion. Considering how much money is in the game, it is simply unacceptable that this was not rectified a long time ago.
“More research is now taking place, but it is likely to be several more years before we get any answers.
“Football has been dragging its feet for far too long on this issue, leaving parents and players in the dark.
“Sport should always look to evolve and it’s right that we have sensible discussions about reducing risk. But we have to ensure that all well-intentioned measures to protect the welfare of children playing sport are evidence based.
“The question is will banning under 10s from heading footballs achieve anything, or will it simply provide parents of children in slightly older age groups with potentially false confidence?
“The reality is we simply do not know and we shouldn’t have to be guessing at what age it is safe to head a football.
“The importance of this issue cannot be understated given the number of people that play football. It must be addressed with a combined approach of common sense backed by scientific knowledge.”