Irish FA says new guidelines on children heading "will be good for the game"

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Head man: IFA chief Patrick Nelson.

Q Radio Sport

Primary school children have been banned from heading in football training in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland.

The Football Associations of each country announced the ban on Monday and said a "graduated approach" will be taken to heading in training in under-12s to under-16s football.

The ban does not apply to matches because of the limited number of headers which occur in youth games.



The IFA has issued the following statement:

The Irish Football Association has issued updated heading guidance for all age groups between Under-6 and Under-18 in partnership with the Football Association and the Scottish FA.

The updated advice, which is being introduced immediately, provides grassroots clubs, coaches and players with recommended heading guidance for training sessions. The guidance does not make any changes to the way matches are played. 

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "Our football committee has reviewed and approved the new guidelines. As an association we believe this is the right direction of travel and are confident it will be good for the game and those who play it." 

Following the publication of The FA and PFA joint-funded FIELD study, which was carried out by the University of Glasgow and published in October 2019, The FA established the independently-chaired Research Taskforce to guide on possible changes to heading coaching, review concussion management protocols and advise on future research projects.

Although there was no evidence in the FIELD study to suggest that heading the ball was linked with incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease, to mitigate against any potential risks the updated Heading Guidance has been produced in parallel with UEFA’s Medical Committee, which is seeking to publish Europe-wide guidelines later this year.

The updated advice includes guidance in training for all age groups between Under 6 and Under 18, no heading in training in the foundation phase (primary school children) and a graduated approach to heading training for children in the development phase between U12 and U16.

It also covers required ball sizes for training and matches for each age group. There will be no changes to heading in matches, however, taking into consideration the limited number of headers in youth games.


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