Rangers legend Ally McCoist and Celtic hero John Hartson both supported the Scottish Football Association’s ban on children from playing soccer balls.
The SFA is on the verge of introducing new measures to prevent players under the age of 12 from remaining in training because of the link between sports and dementia.
It follows the publication of a study at the University of Glasgow that found professional footballers to be three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than non-footballers of the same age.
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Cristiano Ronaldo won a sensational Juventus header against the laws of physics and gravity in December, but young players in Scotland mustn’t try to imitate the Portuguese icon
The ban also comes after a series of campaigns by former player families who were diagnosed with dementia later in life.
This includes Dawn Astle, the daughter of former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle, who died in 2002 at the age of 59 from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain injury-related dementia. The coroner decided that his death had been caused by the repeated trauma of guiding the ball and described it as an “industrial disease”.
There has been a similar ban in the U.S. since 2015 to target young players, but Scotland would be the first European country to impose such a restriction.
It could take place in the grassroots season from March to November, and Rangers legend McCoist has supported it.
The former Gers striker and coach, Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, said: “It is clearly an issue that is very, very important for the header-related illness. Studies have proven this and you see some of the great players we lost …
“But at the same time you look at the football side … if you forbid children under the age of 12, how can they ever learn to direct the ball?
“And how do you implement the ban? When the ball comes to you, it is natural to guide the ball.
“But I think we have to support it.”
Alan Brazil and Ally McCoist explain why they support the Scottish Football Association’s idea of banning the management of soccer balls during training under the age of 12
A striker known for his skill in the air, former Celtic star Hartson, also joined talkSPORT to support the ban as well.
The Welshman praised the Scottish association for taking the problem seriously and said the results of the report were too shocking to be ignored.
“I am absolutely in favor of a ban,” the ex-Wales international told White and Sawyer.
“The families of older, former footballers are convinced that the header has played a major role in these men with dementia, and if there is conclusive evidence that the header does long-term harm, something needs to be done.
“People lose their lives.
“It was part of my game to head the ball, it was a big factor in my career, and I enjoyed doing it.
Hartson scored 109 goals for Celtic in 201 appearances
“I would spend hours in the garden with my father, he would throw the ball in the air and I would direct it back to him.
“I remember being an apprentice in Luton Town and staying out for hours after training and people crossing the ball in to guide it, and those were the harder balls, they were firmer than they are now.
“The footballs are much lighter now, the leather around the ball is much softer, but we would spend hours steering the ball.
“As we know, the balls were made of real leather 30 and 40 years ago, and if they were wet the ball would be heavier and would have a stronger impact on your head.
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“There will be people who say that the ban is exaggerated and that we are too worried.
“But if you associate dementia with head trauma and how often you are on the ball, you have to look at it. The statistics are breathtaking.
“I think the Scottish association is the leader here when it comes to taking something seriously and actually doing something about it.
“I just don’t think we can ignore that and just sit back and relax.”