A top neuroscientist has warned that heading footballs is dangerous to children as it may cause brain injuries.
Dr Grey, a motor Neuroscientist at the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences has said: “Children should not be heading the ball…The brain bounces back and forth and it is the impact of the brain against the inside of the skull causes additional damage.”
He also expressed concern about the strength of children’s underdeveloped neck muscles, saying: “We don’t know at what age children’s necks become strong enough to withstand the movement of the head when the head is struck by the ball.”
These comments come just after the FA announced a new ruling which gives club doctors final say over whether a player can return to the field after a head injury.
However, Dr Grey didn’t advocate that children stop playing football altogether – merely that the rules and the way they are trained should be reconsidered.
So what options are there to prevent potential injury to young players?
The most obvious would be to listen to Dr Grey and change the way children play.
As mentioned in a previous Discount Football Kits blog post, the Latin and Continental fondness for futsal, with its close quarters, intricate play would be the ideal remedy.
Not only does the style of play exclude aerial passing, the futsal balls used are often heavier with a low bounce, meaning that the chances of a player having to use their head is almost nil.
A lot of 5-a-side leagues and tournaments in the UK already restrict play to below head height – if the ball goes over this then the other side receive a free-kick from where the ball was kicked.
This is partly to stop overzealous shots and clearances being fired over the surrounding fences, but it shows that it can be implemented quite easily.
Also, a by-product of keeping the ball on the floor would be that the long-ball game becomes far less of an option as players develop, meaning they’d have to become more creative in possession – something that could only be good for the home nations’ international hopes.
If you’d like to get started with futsal you can buy a futsal ball from our selection of discounted specialist footballs.
Do you think heading the ball is harmful for children?
Should we discourage heading at early ages and help develop more technical players through futsal and other methods like 5-aside?
Let us know your thoughts…