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Ajax Youth Teams Will Only Practice Heading With Foam Balls

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Ajax Youth Teams Will Only Practice Heading With Foam Balls

Ajax youth teams will only use foam balls in heading practice, as football attempts to learn more about the effect of heading the ball on dementia.

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The issue of how many footballers are affected by dementia later in life has been put in the spotlight recently with the death of World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, who had advanced dementia, and news that his former England and Manchester United teammate Sir Bobby Charlton had also been diagnosed with the syndrome.

Other former players have come forward with their opinion on heading, with some even calling for a ban on it in the game completely.

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Ajax have now confirmed that players in their academy from the ages of eight to 12 will not have any sort of heading training with a normal ball.

Instead the players will use a foam ball in training, with a club official saying "We monitor scientific research in this area," according to Dutch outlet Trouw.

PSV are also set to use lighter balls during heading for their youngsters, whilst Feyenoord told the outlet, "We continuously monitor what is the best, safest and most responsible in terms of training with the (youngest) youth.

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"Incidentally, at the youngest ages there is little or no training on heads. It is much more about fun, technique and insight into the game."

The Eredivisie side, who made 'Total Football' popular in the 1970s, don't do much heading training for their academy as it is.

A study by The University of Glasgow in 2019 showed that football players are more than three times more likely to develop dementia than everyone else.

Ajax academy coach Steven Pienaar with one of his players. Image: PA Images
Ajax academy coach Steven Pienaar with one of his players. Image: PA Images
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Speaking to the Sports Gazette about dementia recently, Gary Lineker said, "Being a former footballer and aging footballer, it is something that concerns me and it is terrible to see so many footballers being affected.

"The percentage levels are significantly higher than the average population, so it is hard not to conclude that heading footballs at an early age repeatedly over a long period of time can cause dementia.

"...Chris Sutton's campaign to stop heading the ball too much in training for me makes sense.

"You don't need to head the ball in training really, you can either head it or you can't. It is not that important to do in training repeatedly that's for sure, so I think that would make a huge difference."

Featured Image Credit: Ajax Academy/Twitter/PA

Topics: Football News, Eredivisie, Dutch football, Ajax, Netherlands, European Football

Ryan Sidle
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