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Scottish football to restrict heading before and after matches after new research

The new guidance comes after research found football players are up to three-and-half times more likely to die from brain disease; clubs are also advised to limit exercises that involve repetitive heading to one weekly session

Heading is to be banned the day before and after games.
Image: Heading is to be restricted the day before and after games in Scottish football

New guidelines on heading are being introduced to Scottish football in a bid to help protect players, including restricting heading the day before and after a game.

Clubs are also advised to limit exercises that involve repetitive heading to one weekly session.

The new guidelines come after ground-breaking research by Glasgow University's Dr Willie Stewart.

He and his research group discovered that football players are up to three-and-half times more likely to die from brain disease and are more susceptible to diseases such as dementia.

They linked it to an excessive heading of the ball during football training and matches.

The latest guidelines are being issued to all adult clubs, including at professional level, following further studies conducted by the SFA and Hampden Sports Clinic.

Heading is to be banned the day before and after games
Image: Exercises that involve repetitive heading will be limited to one session a week

Scottish football already has guidelines in place to curb the effects of brain damage in football.

The SFA has banned heading for U12s altogether in 2020 and Scotland was also one of the first countries to adopt concussion guidelines after the "if in doubt, sit them out" campaign.

Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: "The historic University of Glasgow study (FIELD), which found an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease in retired professional footballers, compared to a matched population control group, has been a catalyst for a radical rethink of football guidance, starting in the youth game with the introduction of the heading guidelines for children between 6-17 in 2020.

"The Scottish FA said at the time that this research should shape the thinking in the adult game not just domestically, but across the world.

"I am grateful to everyone in the professional game - clubs, coaches and managers, and players - for contributing to the latest research which has culminated in these new guidelines.

"It is our intention that these guidelines will be embraced and implemented with immediate effect. The publishing of today's guidelines represents our ongoing commitment to player welfare."

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The Scottish FA's chief medical advisor Dr John MacLean insists heading will remain a part of football as new guidelines are introduced to protect players from the risk of developing brain injuries

Dr John MacLean, the chief Scottish FA medical consultant, said: "It is important to reiterate that while the FIELD study was not designed to identify the causes of this increased risk, both head injury and heading have been suggested as possible contributing factors to neurodegenerative disease.

"While the research continues to develop, what we already know about heading and its effects on the brain suggests that there is measurable memory impairment lasting 24-48 hours following a series of headers.

"Brain-related proteins can be detected in blood samples for a short time after heading.

"Brain scan changes have also been reported in footballers that may be linked to heading.

"Therefore, the goal is to reduce any potential cumulative effect of heading by reducing the overall exposure to heading in training."

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