MOVES to ban children under-12 heading the ball has been described as a “smart move” by the author of a groundbreaking report on the link between football and dementia.

The Scottish FA is said to be considering the move following publication of the Glasgow University study, which found that former professional players were three and a half times more likely to die of degenerative brain disease.

If approved, the plan would see Scotland become become the first country in Europe to impose such a ban - following in the footsteps of the US which stopped children heading the ball in 2014.

Dr Willie Stewart, the consultant neuropathologist who led the study, said: “We need to seriously consider what we can do to avoid these problems in the future.

“I think included in that is looking at exposure of young brains to the only risk factor that we know of at the moment, head injury or head impact.

“If the suggestion here is that for kids football they may move away from even coaching heading, then that seems like a smart move.”

The consultant added that he has recently been involved in research looking at how much heading goes on at youth level and so far the results show that it is “an exceptionally rare part of the game”.

“I think there’s a very logical argument that if it’s something that hardly ever happens in a match, why bother?” he said.

“Do they really need to bat a ball back with their head 20 or 30 times a week just for that rare moment they might need to head it?”

The SFA is considering a range of options in the wake of last week’s publication of the report and following discussions with medical experts.

A source is reported as saying: “The new presidential team are determined to be proactive on such a serious issue affecting the national game.

“This is not just about young people heading the ball in matches but taking steps to remove repetitive heading practice in training.”

However, Dr Stewart said the issue needs to be considered at all levels of football, not just under-12s.

He said:”In the game as a whole they need to be looking at ways of reducing all unnecessary head impacts,” he said.

The Evening Times and our sister title The Herald are backing a campaign by Alzheimer Scotland for free end of life dementia health care.