Children under the age of 12 could be banned from heading the ball in training in Scotland because of links between football and dementia.
The United States has had a similar ban in place since 2015 but Scotland would become the first European country to impose such a restriction. The Scottish Football Association said on Thursday it was finalising its proposals.
A report by the University of Glasgow, released last October, said former professional footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of a degenerative brain disease.
A spokesman for the SFA said: “Since the publication of Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk [FIELD] study by Glasgow University into the link between football and dementia towards the end of last year, the Scottish FA has worked closely with the authors of the research – which includes the men’s national team doctor and medical adviser, Dr John MacLean – and wider football stakeholders to look at practical steps the national sport in this country can take to minimise risk in the area of head trauma.
“Given the study was undertaken using medical records from Scottish footballers, there is an additional onus on the national governing body in this country to take a responsible yet proportionate approach to the findings.
“The presidential team of Rod Petrie and Mike Mulraney, along with chief executive Ian Maxwell, were keen that all possible options were open to discussion but that any final recommendations would be taken with the guidance of the medical experts.
“To that end, productive discussions have taken place within the auspices of the Scottish FA’s professional and non-professional game boards, as well as main board, on proactive, preventative measures with particular focus on younger age groups. It is our intention to finalise those proposals with the relevant stakeholders in early course and further details will be announced thereafter.”
The former Celtic striker John Hartson said: “There have been some serious situations where players have lost their lives and ex-legends suffering from dementia, so I’m glad the SFA are leading the rest of football and doing something about it.”
The former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle died in 2002 of what a coroner said was an “industrial disease” partly caused by heading heavy footballs during his career.
The brain injury association Headway said: “It is understandable that coaches and parents are looking for clarification on this issue. It is therefore vital that more research is conducted to fully understand what risks, if any, are linked to heading lightweight modern footballs.
“There are questions about the age limit and speculation suggests this will be 12 years. This infers that a child of 13 years is safe to head the ball. How do we know this to be the case? The difficulty we face, in the absence of meaningful research relating to the modern game, is where we draw the line in terms of acceptable risk versus the rewards we know healthy exercise can bring.”