More Research is needed to fully understand the links between football and heading a ball and neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, the Scottish Government has said.

Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, said that the Glasgow University study, released last week, showing ex professional football players were more likely than the rest of the population to suffer conditions like dementia later in life, was important but only the start.

She said that it wasn’t conclusive that heading a ball was responsible for the increased rates of neurodegenerative disease, but that the SFA has acted responsibly in moving to banning the heading of balls in training for under 12s.

The study looked at more than seven and a half thousand former mela professional football players born before 1977 and concluded that they were three times more likely to have a brain related condition alter in life.

Heading the ball is assumed to be a factor.

READ MORE: Scotland set to ban heading in kids' football over dementia link

However, Ms Freeman also noted the findings that the men in the study were less likely to die from heart disease and some cancers as the benefits of football as exercise were stated.

She said a balance between safety and promoting active sports was needed.

The Health Secretary said: “It is crucial that all adults and children can participate in football safely and a range of actions have already been taken in Scotland which was the first county to produce national guidance in dealing with concussion in sport.

“We remain in close contact with experts at the sportscotland institute of sport and the chief medical officer at the Scottish FA and will work with partners including PFA Scotland to consider carefully the study and any action which is required.”

She was asked in the Scottish Parliament by SNP MSP, Kenneth Gibson, for her response to the study.

He asked if she shared his view that in banning the heading of balls by under 12’s “The Scottish Football Association has taken a very welcome step forward”.

Ms Freeman said: “The survey which included goalkeepers as well as outfield players doesn’t confirm whether heading is to blame for the increased incidence of neurodegenerative disease compared to the general population.

“Head trauma, for example may also be a factor, so it talks about factors in the increased incidence.

“Nor are its findings highlighting any unique issues with football in Scotland. It is only the start of understanding the relationship between football and degenerative diseases and further research reasonably is required before we have definitive answers.”

Dr Willie Stewart, the consultant neuropathologist who led the Glasgow University study, said the move to ban under 12s from heading was “a smart move”.