The Scottish FA has today reiterated its commitment to the health and welfare of its youth players in light of recommendations made by the US soccer federation on concussion in the game.
This May Scotland became the first country to introduce a set of standardised concussion guidelines that covers all sports. Moreover, the Scottish FA continues to adhere to the Graduated Return to Play protocol that enforces a rest period for young players who suffer concussion on the field of play.
US soccer has suggested that member clubs should ban heading for players aged 10 and under and limit the amount of heading practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13.
The Scottish FA continues to act upon the best medical advice available to us and feels there is currently insufficient evidence to limit heading in the youth game.
Scotland National Team doctor and Medical Advisor to the Scottish FA, Dr John MacLean said: “The Scottish FA’s first priority is looking after the health and welfare of our players in Scotland. As Medical Advisor the recognition and management of concussion is topical and very important.
“What we do in a medical sense is to take on board the best scientific evidence that’s available at any given time. There is a consensus conference that takes place where experts from all around the world get together and look at the scientific evidence which they then give recommendations on.
“At the moment, the recommendations from the experts is that there is insufficient evidence to link recurrent heading of the ball with later brain damage.
“The Scottish FA’s focus is on preventing head injury in football and putting in place a robust system to recognise and manage concussion.”
The Graduated Return to Play protocol enforces a minimum of 23 days rest for young players (19 and under) before a graduated build up back to full fitness.
FIFA has also introduced the three minute rule that has been adopted by both the Scottish FA and SPFL. This allows a team doctor a minimum of three minutes to make an on-pitch assessment on potential incidents of concussion.
Dr MacLean was part of the focus group that helped to introduce the ‘If in doubt, sit them out’ protocol which has standardised guidelines across Scottish sport. It emphasises the importance of concussion as a brain injury and recognises that anyone who has suffered a brain injury should be removed from the pitch for further medical assessment.
In partnership with Hampden Sports Clinic, the Scottish FA have also put in place the National Sport First Aid Course that gives coaches and parents certified first-aid advice on concussion. The two-day course has been running for the last 15 years and as the evidence on concussion has magnified, there is now a significant part of the course on concussion recognition and management.
The Scottish Football Partnership has helped to fund the course and they’ve made a free place available to all Scottish FA affiliated clubs including juniors, amateurs, youths and women. More information can be found here.