Sydney football club, APIA Leichhardt has become the first Australian club to announce a ban on players heading the ball, due to growing international concerns about concussion and long-term brain injuries.
The ban means all players under the age of 12 will not be allowed or taught how to header a football during training sessions, and once players reach the age of 13, the club will plan to gradually introduce heading into training.
APIA Leichhardt chairman, Jim Apostolovski, said the club’s 250 junior players will still have the option to header during competitive games, as the club does not have the authority to extend the ban to competitive games.
“We don’t want to be a club that has an individual, down their journey of life, getting diagnosed with head issues that gets pinned back to playing football,” Apostolovski said.
“We are banning under 12s and younger from heading.
“We won’t coach them how to head the ball, it’s not part of our curriculum for under 12s and under.
“We will not support heading and we will not train headers at club level,” he said.
The decision comes after European studies linked long-term brain illness with head injuries suffered in childhood, indicating former professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to suffer from dementia and other serious neurological diseases.
In February, the national football associations of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all announced a similar plan to ban heading for children ages 11 and under.
This led to Football Federation Australia (FFA) launching a review into the dangers of heading the ball at a young age, currently, FFA’s curriculum for junior football has no restrictions on heading for young age groups, but encourages it to be taught from the ages of 13 onwards.