Heading a football regularly can lead to brain damage – similar to a traumatic brain injury – which could increase the risk of dementia, a new study has shown.

The research, carried out by researchers at Columbia University, also recorded a measurable decline in brain function over two years.

Although previous studies have examined the effects of heading a ball at a single point in time, this is the first study to assess changes over a longer period.

In professional sport there is increasing concern over the effects of repeated head trauma. More than 300 players are suing Welsh Rugby Union, Rugby Football Union and World Rugby over brain damage sustained while playing.

Research is continuing into potential links between head injuries in sport and dementia.

England Football is currently trialling a ban on heading in U12 matches, and in 2021 issued guidance ‘eliminating or restricting’ heading in practice for under 12s.