Walkden Coach Welcomes New FA Guidelines on Heading in Football

Children across Salford will no longer be taught to head footballs during training under the new Football Association guidelines.

The rules are being introduced after research showed former footballers were almost four-times more likely to suffer from dementia in later life.

The new rules, which have come into effect immediately, state:

  • No heading in training during the foundation phase
  • Under-12 teams will be limited to one session a month with a maximum of five headers
  • Under-13 age groups will have one session a week
  • Required ball sizes for training and matches for each age group will also be introduced

Andy Cooke, North Walkden youth manager and coach said: “We’re not going to let these new regulations affect us. I’ve coached kids for a long time and there’s not much heading involved anyway. It’s lucky if we get one header a month!

“Of course it gets more technical at teenage level and I think that’s where it has to be looked at in more detail.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favour of the guidelines and it will be interesting to see the outcome from this change.”

While a single header is unlikely to cause damage, a series of headers over a long period of time may lead to problems. However, there is no definitive evidence that heading a ball does cause brain damage. Dementia causes are complicated and a number of conditions such as age, lifestyle and genetics can all play a factor.

Les Howie, head of grassroots coaching at the FA, told Sky Sports News: “I think there’s lots of myths out there. This is not a ban on heading. This is about guidance to support our volunteer coaches, who do a fantastic job introducing children to the game.

“When you look at mini soccer, you will see on average one, two, three headers a game. So why spend a lot of time in training practising a skill we rarely see?”

Under the new guidelines, while heading in training for children at U11 level and below will be discouraged, it will still be permitted in matches due to the low amount of headers that occur in those games.”

Only long-term research will determine if these changes truly make a difference to life after football.