A HEADING ban in football training for children up to the end of primary school has been introduced with immediate effect in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The three football associations issued a statement on Monday confirming changes to their heading guidance.

It comes in the wake of a study which showed former footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than age-matched members of the general population.

The changes stated there would be no heading at all in the “foundation phase” – primary school children – and a graduated approach to heading in training in under-12s to under-16s football.

There will be no change in terms of heading in matches, taking into consideration the extremely limited number of headers which actually occur in youth matches.

The study did not state that heading a ball was the cause of the increased prevalence of neurodegenerative conditions among footballers, but the decision to update the guidelines has been taken to “mitigate against any potential risks”, the FA said in a statement.

Mark Bullingham, FA chief executive, said: “This updated heading guidance is an evolution of our current guidelines.

“It will help coaches and teachers to reduce and remove repetitive and unnecessary heading from youth football.

“Our research has shown that heading is rare in youth football matches so this guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with UEFA’s medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance later this year.

Youth team coaches have given mixed reaction to the changes.

Scott Burns, chairman and manager of Peacehaven Town under tens, said he was happy with the announcement.

He said: “It’s a long time coming to be honest. They should have done it five, ten years ago. The game is changing massively.

“You don’t get the long lumps forward, everything’s played on the ground.”

“Youth football is about enjoyment.

“Do you need to spend an hour teaching a kid how to head the ball?

“From 16 down it should be banned to be honest. I don’t think it would make any difference.

“They might only head it two or three times a game. I’m happy they are protecting their health.

“I played centre-back for many years. The ball would just get lumped forward and the front of my head would end up pretty sore, so that alone shows you.

“You will get the ones stuck in their ways. People need to understand that things are changing.”

Scott Wheatland, manager of Rottingdean Village FC under tens, was less sure.

He said: “I can see the benefits, and especially to their health, but from a coaching perspective it’s very difficult.

“I can’t speak for other coaches, but I’ve never done a training drill on heading, we teach more about the foot on the ball.

“Maybe using balloons in training would work so they can still get used to heading.”

“I’m starting to see it (heading) more at under- ten level. Some are still a little reluctant.”

“I played centre-half and if I’d let it bounce I would have got an absolute earful.

“England had some of the best headers of a ball in the world like John Terry, Tony Adams.”

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA chief executive, said: “While it is important to re-emphasise there is no research to suggest that heading in younger age groups was a contributory factor in the findings of the FielD study into professional footballers, nevertheless Scottish football has a duty of care to young people, their parents and those responsible for their well-being throughout youth football.

“The updated guidelines are designed to help coaches remove repetitive and unnecessary heading from youth football in the earliest years, with a phased introduction at an age group considered most appropriate by our medical experts.

“It is important to reassure that heading is rare in youth football matches, but we are clear that the guidelines should mitigate any potential risks.”