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Ban on heading for children under 10 would be ‘correct decision’, says Norwich legend Iwan Roberts

By Adam Ellis

Former Norwich City striker Iwan Roberts has called for the FA of Wales (FAW) to act to protect young children from dangers associated with heading footballs.

The call follows on from report published by the University of Stirling, which produced findings to suggest heading a ball at a young age causes instant short-term changes to the brain.

“I think it would be a brave move from the FAW if they were to take this stance,” Roberts told BBC Radio Wales.

“I think it would be the correct decision and if they did go through with this decision then, hopefully, other FAs will be brave enough and follow in the Welsh FA’s footsteps.”

The PFA applied pressure to Wembley HQ last December when its chief executive Gordon Taylor urged the FA to at least consider a ban on heading the ball for children under 10.

“I think that has to be a serious consideration. It is not a knee-jerk reaction. It would be a considered reaction bearing in mind evidence that has been coming through from different sports and to a limited extent in football,” Taylor said.

“There have been rule changes for youngsters about pitches they play on, about the numbers in the game, about whether or not girls should be involved with boys and up to what age. It is very much in line with that. We don’t want to put off the next generation but we need to be very mindful. The game needs to have a duty of care to all its participants,” Taylor added.

Research involving a small number of participants proved short-term memory loss was a factor for subjects who headed a football 20 times, but that normal brain function had resumed within 24 hours.

Health groups are now calling for broader research projects to be created to give a more general sense into the effects of heading in pre-adolescent brains, and how the skill could contribute to psychological issues in later life.

Roberts made a total of 647 appearances in professional football during his career, achieving a 1-in-3 goals per game ratio for Huddersfield Town, Leicester City and Wolves to earn an £850,000 transfer to Carrow Road in 1997.

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