CHILDREN in Scotland could be banned from heading footballs over fears of links between football and dementia.

According to BBC Scotland, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) is set to announce the ban for under-12s later this month.

If accurate, Scotland would be the first country in Europe to bring in the ban, though the strict rule has been in use in the US since 2015.

The report received a mostly positive response from footballers.

Former Celtic striker John Hartson told the BBC: “Heading was a massive part of my game. Managers bought me because I could head the ball.

“There have been some serious situations where players have lost their lives and ex-legends suffering from dementia, so I’m glad the SFA are leading the rest of football and doing something about it.”

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard was more circumspect, and said headers still had a place in the game.

He said: “It’s certainly something I back in terms of the seriousness of the dementia risk. But there’s ways you can do it when it comes to the debate over banning heading totally for under-12s.

“I used to love heading balls, probably from the age of four.

“So I wouldn’t take it away from them completely because they will be watching their heroes every day on the TV, heading and scoring goals.

“But [there are] certainly things you can help them with by making the balls smaller or lighter or doing heading in a different way without using the heavy-case balls.”

The decision follows last year’s report by the University of Glasgow, which discovered former professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely than other people to die of a degenerative brain disease.

The study – Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk (FIELD) – revealed the “risk ranged from a five-fold increase in Alzheimer’s disease, through an approximately four-fold increase in motor neurone disease, to a two-fold increase in Parkinson’s disease in former professional footballers compared to population controls.”

It’s expected the SFA will announce their decision at the end of the month.

A spokesman for the governing body of Scottish football said it would finalise proposals “with the relevant stakeholders in early course and further details will be announced thereafter”.

Campaigner Dawn Astle said it was a positive step and urged the UK’s other football governing bodies to follow Scotland’s lead.

Astle’s father, former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle, died aged 59 in 2002 from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of dementia caused by brain injury.

The coroner ruled his death was an “industrial disease” caused by the repeated trauma of heading the ball.

She said: “We’re very pleased, we applaud them for trying to put things in place to reduce the risk and not hanging on and hanging on and keep saying ‘more research, more research’.

“The FIELD study is a very strong study which clearly shows the amount of risk footballers are at, so I applaud them and I hope that children in other countries – English, Welsh, whatever – mean as much to our specific FAs as clearly Scottish children do to theirs.”