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Scottish Football On Its Head

New rules come into effect in Scottish Football that ban headers in training the days directly before and after a game. Starting now!

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The Full Scottish: Scottish Football Bans Heading Before Play

By Brian P. Dunleavy

To be clear, we’re all about player safety at the Full Scottish, and we know about the links between heading and brain health. Far too many former footballers—including Lisbon Lions Billy McNeill and Bertie Auld—have dealt with dementia in their post-playing careers. Something needs to be done by the Scottish football authorities.

But a difficult-to-enforce rule on heading in training, enacted by the SFA last week, while all eyes are on Qatar? Seems a recipe for disaster, and controversy.

Under the new rule, professional footballers in Scotland will be banned from heading the ball in training the day before and the day after a game, effective immediately. Clubs have also been instructed to limit exercises that involve repetitive heading to one training session per week.

The SFA has implemented guidelines on heading in youth football, effectively banning them during training for the under-12 age group. That ban was enacted following the results of a University of Glasgow study, published in 2019,. It found that former footballers were 3.5-times more likely to die from brain-related diseases than those in the general population.

Beware The Heading Police

Though largely enforced on the honor system (we’d like to think youth football coaches would not knowingly do something that would jeopardize juvenile players’ health), the ban could go a long way toward protecting young people from long-term brain complications. Of course, players and their parents could also complain if coaches violate the restrictions.

A similar honor system would not be practical in the if-you’re-not-cheating-you’re-not-trying environment of modern-day professional sport. We’re not excusing professional clubs that would knowingly flout the new rules in the name of winning. We’re merely stating the fact that managers—and players—under pressure will often look for any edge they can get. And, if they feel that includes extra heading practice in training?

Unless the SFA plans to send spotters to training sessions—and institute fines and suspensions to clubs that violate the policy—we fear the guidelines are likely to be ignored, or at least overlooked. Unfortunately, with long-term consequences.

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