Children in Scotland could be barred from heading footballs in training ‘within weeks’ due to concerns over the link between the sport and dementia, according to reports.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is understood to be exploring the ban in response to a landmark university study revealing professional footballers were three and a half times more likely to die after developing neurodegenerative conditions.

The new rules would mean those under the age of 12 would be prohibited from heading the ball during training sessions, but would not extend to matchdays.

READ MORE: 'Ex-footballers at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and MND'

A similar ban has been in force in the United States since 2015, however the BBC reports the SFA would be the first European football association to undertake such action.

It comes after research published by Glasgow University in October found former Scottish footballers were less likely to die of other common diseases such as heart disease and lung cancer but had a higher risk of dying with dementia after the age of 70.

Celtic's Lisbon Lions hero Billy McNeill, who revealed he had dementia in 2017, passed away in April last year - a week before his former teammate Stevie Chalmers, who was also living with the condition.

Rangers legend Fernando Ricksen also passed away last year after a long battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Meanwhile, Amanda Kopel, widow of Dundee United legend Frank, lead a campaign to extend free care for those suffering from neurological illness after being forced into financial hardship when the ex-player was diagnosed with dementia at the age of just 59.

SFA doctor John MacLean, who was part of the team which highlighted the link between heading the ball and the disease, welcomed the move.

READ MORE: ‘People with dementia should get free care like anyone else with a progressive illness’

He told the BBC: "We can't wait on the evidence one way or the other on heading.

"We need to take some sensible, pragmatic steps at the moment and that's largely going to be about trying to reduce that overall burden, the overall times that young players head - and heading in training is much more common than in matches.”

He added: "The study was never designed to, and couldn't identify, why, but I think most people would say, pragmatically that it would be head injury or heading, in whatever combination that would be."