Heading will still be allowed during matches, but banned in training the day before and after games
Professional footballers in Scotland are to be banned from heading the ball in training the day before and the day after a game.
Clubs are also being told to limit exercises that involve repetitive heading to one session per week.
The new guidelines come after Glasgow University research that showed former footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from brain disease.
Experts believe there could be a link to repetitive heading of the ball.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) already has guidelines in place limiting heading in youth football, with a ban on headers in training for the under-12 age group.
Scotland was also the first country in the world to have a single set of concussion guidelines for all sports, with the “If in doubt, sit them out” campaign.
The new guidelines are being introduced after consultation with the 50 clubs across the professional men’s and women’s game in Scotland and following an SFA survey of clubs to gauge heading trends.
Clubs are also being told to monitor heading activity in training with the aim of reducing the overall burden of contact.
Dr John MacLean has been the SFA doctor for more than 20 years and was involved in the 2019 field study that highlighted the link between dementia and former professional players.
“While the research continues to develop, what we already know about heading and its effects on the brain suggests that there is measurable memory impairment lasting 24-48 hours following a series of headers, and that brain-related proteins can be detected in blood samples for a short time after heading,” he said.
“Brain scan changes have also been reported in footballers that may be linked to heading.
“Therefore, the goal is to reduce any potential cumulative effect of heading by reducing the overall exposure to heading in training.”
girl heading a football
The SFA has previously banned heading in training for under-12 age group players
The new guidelines will mean a change for many training routines that involve set-piece exercises, the day before a match.
“We’ve taken our time with this because we wanted to really engage with stakeholders across football,” Dr MacLean said.
“We wanted to determine just how much heading is taking place in training to get a baseline idea.
“Then there was the engagement process with players, through PFA Scotland but also with the clubs, the managers and coaches through the Scottish FA.
“It was all about collective responsibility and safeguarding player health and well-being.”
Andy Gould, the SFA’s chief football officer, said there was already a great deal of data around in-match heading.
But he said the latest research had been “invaluable in understanding the extent of heading load within the training environment”.
He added: “I am grateful to the clubs, managers and players for providing us with the information and perspectives required to facilitate an informed and data-driven discussion which has culminated in the publication of guidelines designed to protect the safety and wellbeing of our players.”
Earlier this year, the FA in England introduced guidelines for clubs that limits players to 10 high impact headers per week, during training.
A number of high-profile former footballers have died from dementia in recent years, including the former Celtic captain Billy McNeill and former England World Cup winner and Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton.