Children could be banned from heading the ball in Scotland due to links between football and dementia, it was reported today.
BBC Scotland said the Scottish Football Association is set to announce the ban for under-12s later this month.
The United States have put a similar ban in place since 2015 but the SFA would become the first European country to impose such a restriction.
The decision follows the release of a report by the University of Glasgow last October, which discovered former professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of a degenerative brain disease.
Former Arsenal and Celtic striker John Hartson praised the Scottish FA for their stance on the subject.
He told the BBC: “Heading was a massive part of my game. Managers bought me because I could head the ball.
“There have been some serious situations where players have lost their lives and ex-legends suffering from dementia, so I’m glad the SFA are leading the rest of football and doing something about it.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish FA said: “Since the publication of Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk [FIELD] study by Glasgow University into the link between football and dementia towards the end of last year, the Scottish FA has worked closely with the authors of the research – which includes the men’s national team doctor and medical advisor, Dr John MacLean – and wider football stakeholders to look at practical steps the national sport in this country can take to minimise risk in the area of head trauma.
Former pro footballers had an approx 3.5 times higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease, but were less likely to die of diseases such as heart disease and some cancers, says new @UofGMVLS study led by @WillSTEWNeuro in @NEJMOctober 21, 2019
“Given the study was undertaken using medical records from Scottish footballers, there is an additional onus on the national governing body in this country to take a responsible yet proportionate approach to the findings.
“The presidential team of Rod Petrie and Mike Mulraney, along with chief executive Ian Maxwell, were keen that all possible options were open to discussion but that any final recommendations would be taken with the guidance of the medical experts.
“To that end, productive discussions have taken place within the auspices of the Scottish FA’s Professional and Non-Professional Game Boards, as well as main board, on proactive, preventative measures with particular focus on younger age groups.
“It is our intention to finalise those proposals with the relevant stakeholders in early course and further details will be announced thereafter.”
Brain injury association Headway has called for further research to be undertaken.
Chief executive of Headway Peter McCabe said in a statement: “In light of the recent study undertaken by the University of Glasgow which suggested that professional football players have a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases than the general public, there does seem to be merits in considering such a move.
“It is understandable that coaches and parents are looking for clarification on this issue. It is therefore vital that more research is conducted to fully understand what risks, if any, are linked to heading lightweight modern footballs.”
The statement continued: “There are questions about the age limit and speculation suggests this will be 12 years. This infers that a child of 13 years is safe to head the ball. How do we know this to be the case?
“The difficulty we face, in the absence of meaningful research relating to the modern game, is where we draw the line in terms of acceptable risk versus the rewards we know healthy exercise can bring.”