FA guidelines to limit heading in youth football

24 February 2020

Today (Monday 24 February) the English Football Association (FA) has announced updated coaching guidelines to limit heading in youth football. This comes after a recent study showed ex-professional football players in Scotland are at increased risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

What do the new guidelines say?

The FA released updated Heading Guidelines for coaches, which includes advice to not include heading in training for primary school children and a graduated approach to introducing heading in children from under-12’s to under16’s.

What does this have to do with dementia?

There’s been a spotlight on football since the release of the FIELD study in 2019, which showed ex-professional footballers in Scotland were at an increased risk of dementia.

There was no indication about what caused this link and scientists are still trying to understand this link in more detail.

Our Director of Research, Dr Carol Routledge advises the FA on their research approach.

What does our expert say?

Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The recent FIELD study highlighted an increased dementia risk for ex-professional footballers in Scotland. While we don’t yet know the cause or causes of this increased risk, limiting unnecessary heading in children’s football is a practical step that minimises any possible risks, ensuring that football remains as safe as possible in all forms.

“We need to see more research in order to unpick any link between football and dementia risk but until we know more, making sure the nation’s best loved game is played as safely as possible is a sensible approach. Only through sustained investment in dementia research will we keep people connected to their families, their worlds and themselves for longer.

“If you have any questions about dementia research, contact Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5 111.”