Rangers legend Ally McCoist and Celtic hero John Hartson have both given their support to the Scottish Football Association’s proposed ban on children heading footballs.
The SFA are close to introducing new measures to stop players under the age of 12 from heading in training due to links between the sport and dementia.
It comes following the publication of a study conducted at the University of Glasgow, which found professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of a neurodegenerative disease than non-footballers of the same age.
The ban also comes after a number of campaigns from the families of former players who were diagnosed with dementia in their later lives.
Among those are Dawn Astle, the daughter of former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle, who died aged 59 in 2002 from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of dementia caused by brain injury. The coroner ruled that his death had been caused by the repeated trauma of heading the ball, describing it as an ‘industrial disease’.
A similar ban on heading for young players has been in place since 2015 in the United States, but Scotland would become the first European country to impose such a restriction.
It could be in place for the grassroots season, which runs from March to November, and Rangers legend McCoist has given it his backing.
Speaking on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, the former Gers striker and manager said: “Clearly it’s a subject that’s very, very important in terms of illness caused by heading the ball, studies have proved that, and you look at some of the great players we’ve lost…
“But then at the same time, you look at the footballing side… if you ban kids under 12 how do they ever learn to head the ball?
“And how do you carry out the ban? Clearly if the ball comes to you the natural thing to do would be to head the ball.
“But, I think we’ve got to support it.”
Alan Brazil and Ally McCoist explain why they’re backing the Scottish Football Association’s idea to ban under 12s from heading footballs in training
A striker renowned for his ability in the air, former Celtic star Hartson, also joined talkSPORT to also give his backing to the ban.
The Welshman hailed the Scottish FA for taking the issue seriously, saying the findings of the report are too shocking to be ignored.
“I support a ban, absolutely,” the ex-Wales international told White and Sawyer.
“The families of elderly ex-footballers are convinced heading the ball played a huge part of these gentlemen passing away through dementia, and if there is conclusive evidence that heading the ball is causing long-term damage, then there’s got to be something done about it.
“People are losing their lives.
“Heading the ball was part of my game, it was a huge factor of my career, and it was something I enjoyed doing.
“I would spend hours in the garden with my dad, him throwing the ball into the air and I’d head it back to him.
“I remember being an apprentice at Luton Town and I would stay out for hours on end after training and people would be crossing the ball in for me to head it, and these were the harder balls , they were firmer than they are now.
“The footballs now are a lot lighter, the leather around the ball is a lot softer but we would spend hours heading the ball.
“As we know, the balls 30 and 40 years ago were made of proper leather and in wet conditions the ball would be heavier and there would then be more of an impact on your head.
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“There will be people saying the ban is over the top, saying we’re worrying too much.
“But if they are linking dementia to head trauma and the amount of times you’re heading the ball, you have to look at it. The stats are staggering.
“I think the Scottish FA are the leaders in this, in terms of taking in seriously and actually doing something about it.
“I just don’t think we can ignore this and just sit back.”