CHILDREN aged 11 and under will no longer be able to head balls during training sessions.

New guidelines have been implemented in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and will take place with immediate effect.

It follows a joint statement from football associations in all three countries on Monday, and follows a study which showed former footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from brain disease.

Under the new guidelines, there will be no heading of the ball in the foundation phase (primary school aged children).

However, there will be no changes to heading in matches, with the English Football Association stating that heading is less common at junior level.

There are also new rules for age ranges up to 18, with headers being kept a low priority, and gradually becoming more frequent in training until the age of 16.

The Football Association’s chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “This updated heading guidance is an evolution of our current guidelines and will help coaches and teachers to reduce and remove repetitive and unnecessary heading from youth football.

“Our research has shown that heading is rare in youth football matches, so this guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with UEFA’s medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance later this year.

The FA’s head of grassroots coaching Les Howie said: “Heading the ball is a unique aspect of the way football is played, so this needed to be given much deliberation and consideration, notably with the support of our independently-chaired FA Research Taskforce.

“The research shows that on average there are only around two headers per game in children’s football, which shows that heading the ball is an infrequent occurrence at that level of the game.”

“However, in the interim, we believe that these are common sense, practical and graduated guidance.”