SHE fought a long and ultimately successful campaign to ensure that anyone in Scotland under the age of 65 who had a degenerative condition received free personal care after her late husband Frank Kopel, the former Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers and Dundee United footballer, was diagnosed with dementia.

Now Amanda Kopel is calling on the SFA to introduce strict rules banning children from heading footballs in training following the publication of ground-breaking research.

A University of Glasgow study carried out by internationally-renowned specialist Dr Willie Stewart found that former professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die after developing neurodegenerative disease.

Mrs Kopel bvelieves the SFA must take action to prevent future generations from suffering the same way that her husband, who passed away aged 65 in 2014, and many of his contemporaries did.

READ MORE: Glasgow University study shows ex-footballers at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and MND

“I am not surprised by his figures,” she said. “I mentioned 12 years ago that CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) could have been the cause of Frankie’s dementia. Only Willie Stewart and one other GP listened to my concerns about it.

“It was never taken that seriously. I have a massive respect for Dr Stewart. I hope this report, which I know he and his team have worked tremendously hard on, will go a long way towards preventing a lot of deaths in the future.

“Nobody is trying to stop contact sports. That is an impossibility. But the young brain is still growing, is still vulnerable. We can prevent that brain from being damaged at an early age, which could cause dementia in later life.

“How we stop that is to say to the SFA ‘look, you need to sit up here and take note’. Here is a report which is 100 per cent accurate. They must come out with stringent rules, right down to the grassroots, so that none of these youngsters are getting balls thrown at them at training.

“Obviously, if a ball is coming through the air in a game a young kid is going to head it. You can’t ever stop that. But in training they can. They (the SFA) have to follow through and introduce these rules. These clubs, regardless of whether they are amateur, professional, boys or girls, have to stop that.”

Mrs Kopel added: “I am delighted they are saying they (the SFA) are now going to consider it. But what matters is actually turning their words into actions. They need to be strict and say ‘if you’re not going to follow it we are going to fine you’. There has to be some way.

“I know some of the people who coach kids, not all of them, will just ignore the rules. I would say to them ‘that could be your son, your daughter, your grandson, your granddaughter’. They could end up with dementia if you keep getting them to head balls’. Do they want that on their conscience? I know I wouldn’t.

“They should stop youngsters heading balls in training, not during the 90 minutes of a game. There is a solution there. It is up to the SFA to say ‘you must follow these guidelines’.”