THE widow of the late Dundee United player Frank Kopel last night called on the SFA to introduce rules banning children from heading footballs in training following the publication of ground-breaking research.

A University of Glasgow study carried out by internationally-renowned specialist Dr Willie Stewart found that former professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die after developing neurodegenerative disease.

There was also five-fold increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a four-fold increase in motor neurone disease while the risk of Parkinson’s disease doubled.

The study, which was funded by the Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association, compared the deaths of 7,676 former Scottish professional footballers born between 1900 and 1976 against 23,000 matched individuals from the general population.

READ MORE: Glasgow University study: 'Ex-footballers at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and MND'

Amanda Kopel - who launched a successful campaign for the introduction of Frank’s Law, which extends free personal care to people under 65 suffering from degenerative conditions, during her late husband’s fight against dementia - welcomed the findings of the research.

She has called on the SFA, whose chief executive Ian Maxwell yesterday stressed the governing body would actively examine how to reduce the risk of footballers developing neurodegenerative diseases in later life, to ban heading in training among children.

“They (the SFA) must come out with stringent rules, right down to the grass roots, so that none of these youngsters are getting balls thrown at them at training,” said Mrs Kopel.

“It is up to the SFA to come up with a law and say ‘you must follow these guidelines’. It has to be followed through.”