DILI (26 March 2011) – The use MRI for age determination is specific for football and may not be applicable to other sports.
The FIFA (F-MARC) / AFC pilot study using MRI scanning for age determination, concluded that an MRI scan showing grade 6 (complete fusion of radial bone growth plate), the player is deemed to be older than 17 years of age with a certainty of more than 99 percent.
Based on the consensus recommendation from a panel of 13 international experts from Asia and Europe, AFC incorporated into the AFC U16 Tournament Regulations – AFC MRI Protocol for Age Determination.
AFC surprised member associations with the introduction of MRI scanning for age determination in 2007.
AFC was flooded with requests to either allow them to change players after having submitted the player’s list to AFC or alternatively replace them on medical grounds.
AFC stood firm and some players did not travel with the team to final competition. Some players from teams, after having travelled to venue of competition were not listed to play for fear of undergoing MRI screening.
In 2007, ten out of the 437 MRI scans conducted had complete fusion (overage) of the radial bone. AFC applied sanctions.
The subsequent two years (2008/09) saw a sharp decline with one player having complete fusion in each year.
AFC was duly rewarded with their efforts to combat this chronic unfair practice that had plagued football for a long time, when no overage players were fielded at the AFC U16 Finals in Tashkent, 2010.
AFC Medical Committee Chairman, Dato’ Dr Gurcharan Singh said that member associations and confederations have a responsibility to initiate the fight against age cheating in their age group tournaments.
The significance of joint collaboration between AFC and F-MARC that started in 2003 has now been realized, as FIFA shall introduce MRI scanning for age determination at the FIFA U17 tournament in 2013.
“Random screening of players at past FIFA U-17 Tournaments, shows approximately more than 30 percent of players deemed to be overage,” said Dato’ Singh who sits on the FIFA Medical Committee.