Heading the ball in training sessions has been outlawed for primary school children under the age of 12 in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland as part of the Football Association's updated "heading guidance" for the game, with the FAI stating that they are monitoring the situation by keeping in contact with the other associations.
The English, Northern Irish and Scottish Football Associations said in a statement yesterday that they are also set to use a "graduated approach" to headers for 12 to 16-year-olds at grassroots level with immediate effect.
The heading guidelines follow last year's publication of Football's Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk (FIELD) study undertaken by Glasgow University, which found former professionals were at more risk of dementia. The FA said the new guidelines will take effect immediately but it will not recommend an end to headers during youth matches.
FA chief executive officer Mark Bullingham said: "Our research has shown that heading is rare in youth matches, so this guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching without impacting the enjoyment from playing the game."
The FIELD study did not state that heading a ball was the reason behind the increased prevalence of degenerative neurocognitive disease among footballers but the FA said the decision was taken to mitigate any potential risks. The FA confirmed the updated heading guidance has been produced in line with UEFA's medical committee, which is seeking to publish Europe-wide guidelines later this year.
The FAI will monitor the impact of the new ruling and are in contact with UEFA, pointing out that children here use footalls that are weight dependant on age.
FAI Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn said: "We are in communication with the football authorities in the UK and with UEFA on this issue. The health and safety of our schoolboys and schoolgirls is paramount and we note the decision taken in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England to ban heading in training for all players up to 12-years of age.
"Our underage players already play with a lighter ball depending on their age and we will continue to assess developments across Europe on an ongoing basis in relation to this issue."