UEFA, the sports body in charge of European football, has announced two new research projects into ‘heading’ in youth football.
Pressure has been placed on sporting regulators to assess the risk of excessive physical activity, such as heading the ball, for a number of years.
Experts have suggested that heading of the ball should be banned from youth games, at least until the brain has had time to mature and develop fully.
The two new studies will be conducted at Saarland University in Germany and Hampden Sports Clinic and Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board in Scotland.
The researchers will seek to address two questions: to determine the burden of heading in youth football, addressing differences in the way headers are taught in football training and differences in the incidence and characteristics of football headers in matches and training by gender and age.
It will also look at whether heading of the ball has any effect on players’ brain structure and function.
Dr Michel D’Hooghe, Chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, said: “This is a topic of the utmost importance, and I am proud that UEFA is taking a lead in commissioning this research. UEFA places the highest priority on player welfare and this research is a fundamental first step in establishing whether or not heading poses a risk to young players.”
Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, welcome the move, but said the studies are years too late.
“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.”