Football and dementia: SFA should be applauded for restrictions on heading the ball – Scotsman comment

Amid growing evidence that repeatedly heading a football can increase the risk of dementia in later life, the Scottish Football Association is to be applauded for its decision to ban doing so in training on the days before and after a game.

Scotland's Lyndon Dykes heads at goal during a Uefa Nations League match against the Republic of Ireland (Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Scotland's Lyndon Dykes heads at goal during a Uefa Nations League match against the Republic of Ireland (Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Clubs are also being told to limit training exercises involving significant amounts of heading to one session a week.

The new measures come after the SFA restricted heading in youth football, with a complete ban in training for the under-12s, in 2020. Scotland was also the first country to bring in concussion guidelines for all sports, with an "if in doubt, sit them out" campaign.

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The latest move was praised by Luke Griggs, of brain injury charity Headway, who said the new guidelines were “a positive step forwards in terms of how football protects the brain health of players”. “Football has traditionally been fearful of change, so this willingness to evolve protocols and adapt to emerging research is a welcome development,” he added.

There are, of course, risks in all contact sports – such as rugby and, particularly, boxing, where fatalities do occasionally occur. But, just as we seek to reduce the risks in the workplace and in everyday activities, we should try to do the same in sport, in line with the best available evidence as it becomes available.

Life is often about finding the right balance but it seems particularly unfair on the players if the dream of participating in our most popular sports is tarnished by the insidious threat of a cruel disease. We owe it to them to take the issue seriously.

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