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14th Feb 2019

Ryan Mason calls for ban on children heading footballs

Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ryan Mason has advocated banning headers in kids' football to protect them from future brain problems

Reuben Pinder

Mason was forced into earlier retirement after suffering a skull fracture in an aerial challenge

Ryan Mason has called for a ban on children heading footballs. The former Tottenham, Hull and England midfielder had to retire in February last year after suffering a skull fracture while contesting for a header with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill 13 months before.

The 27-year-old endured a long and painful recovery from his injury, and has now become an advocate for a more cautious approach to heading footballs in youth football, having been victim of a career-ending injury.

The Professional Footballers’ Association have also called for restrictions on rules regarding heading in youth football, until the long-term consequences of it are fully understood.

In the United States of America, heading is banned in all age groups up to U11 matches, with limitations put in place for players between the ages of 11 and 13.

Mason believes that if an 8-year-old is heading a football, before their brain is fully developed, it “could potentially be doing damage.”

Speaking to the BBC, Mason said: “I look at some kids and they head the ball with the top of the head and their technique is all wrong, therefore the pressure that it’s putting on the brain is a lot more.

“I don’t think kids should be heading real balls.”

Mason, who now coaches youth players at his former club Spurs, added: “The older you get, you get more experience and your heading technique gets better.

“Maybe bring in sponge balls to learn the technique and gain that experience of actually challenging for a header.

“I don’t think repetitive heading at a young age is doing the kids any good, that’s for sure.

“America is probably more advanced than England in terms of research, and they’ve taken the measure of actually banning it up to a certain age. So maybe we can follow those footsteps over here to protect our young kids.”

He also called for players to receive more protection from concussions. For me it’s pretty simple to diagnose concussion on a football pitch,” he said.

“If there’s any doubt about it, then in my eyes, they should take the player off the pitch.

“Ultimately the specialists that I’ve seen and spoken to, if you do get a whack on the head and there’s a small sort of concussion, and then you go and get another whack on the head within minutes, then that’s when the damage can be done.

“And I think that’s where we can potentially protect the players a lot more.”