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.
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.
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.
A spokesperson for Salford & Districts Football League said: “We do feel its a good move going forward, especially for the younger age groups where they are still growing.
“Player welfare is paramount in the league. It will be interesting to see if the FA release stats for future cases.”
Les Howie, head of grassroots coaching at the FA, stated: “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.