Stopping Scotland’s young footballers from heading the ball is a good idea in more ways than one – leader comment

Repeatedly heading the ball has been linked to dementia in later life
Repeatedly heading the ball has been linked to dementia in later life
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The Scottish Football Association’s plan to ban heading for children is a sensible safety precaution that could even improve the national side.

“If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there,” said the late Brian Clough, making a point about the importance of passing the ball to feet. Given he turned a provincial English football club, Nottingham Forest, into European champions two years running, it’s fair to say he knew a thing or two about the beautiful game.

So the Scottish Football Association’s plan to ban under-12s from heading the ball may eventually benefit clubs and the national team – which has now failed to qualify for a major tournament for more than two decades – as kids are essentially forced to focus on ball skills and pass-and-move and stop hoofing the ball up the park for extended games of ‘head tennis’.

Of course, the main reason behind the impending decision is growing concern that repeated heading of the ball can cause lasting damage to the brain, leading to dementia in later life. While there is some scientific evidence of a link, it’s not entirely conclusive. However, it is surely not controversial to abide by the precautionary principle and act to protect the still-developing brains of young children.

READ MORE: Heading footballs ban: why Scotland may ban under 12s from heading footballs and what it means for the rest of the UK

READ MORE: Ban on children heading balls in Scotland could be introduced in ‘a matter of weeks’