No age-fudging in Asian under-16 finals, says AFC. Sure? | football | Hindustan Times
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No age-fudging in Asian under-16 finals, says AFC. Sure?

The AFC and Fifa have moved from using X-ray imaging, that was said be often inaccurate by a number of years, to MRI scans of wrists to calculate players’ age.

football Updated: Sep 27, 2016 18:44 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
A media release from the organisers of the Asian under-16 football championships said that the competition has so far been free of age-fudging.
A media release from the organisers of the Asian under-16 football championships said that the competition has so far been free of age-fudging.(HT Photo)

A media release from the organisers of the Asian under-16 football championships said that the competition has so far been free of age-fudging, a malaise that usually hits such events in Asia and Africa in the main.

Tests were carried out on 20 players whose age hadn’t been medically verified during the qualifiers and all reports have been negative, according to the release, issued on Monday. It also said 98 players from 11 qualifying groups had been scanned in 2015. One from Nepal failed the test which led to their matches being scratched, the team barred and the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) fined, it said.

“The AFC takes age-cheating very seriously and has a comprehensive strategy in place to combat it through close monitoring, on-site screening, sanctions, and importantly, education,” Dr Gurcharan Singh of Malaysia, who is the chairman of the AFC Medical Committee, was quoted as saying the release.

So far, so good. The AFC and Fifa have moved from using X-ray imaging, that was said be often inaccurate by a number of years, to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of wrists to calculate players’ age. “The number of over-age players in AFC competitions has significantly decreased since MRI scanning was started as a means of age-verification by the AFC,” the release stated.

The release explained how players’ age was judged. “The established method of medical age testing in sport is the use of MRI scans in order to determine the state of fusion of the radial (wrist) bone. According to medical scientists, the radial bone is usually completely fused by the age of 16.”

Hence, if a player in the championships in Goa had a fused radial bone, he would be deemed overage. And therein lies the rub. In an article published in August 2015, the Scientific American magazine argued it wasn’t that straightforward.

“…You may have a person who is 18 who could have only minimal fusion to complete fusion, and there are people who are already fused going from ages 20 to 16,” Vicente Gilsanz, a professor of radiology and pediatrics at the University of Southern California, was quoted as saying the report that is available online.

The magazine also said that Fifa had arrived at this conclusion based on the findings of its own medical assessment and research centre. A sample of 500 teenagers from four continents had been used and the development of their wrist bones studied by Fifa, the magazine said. Fifa’s findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the magazine said.

The report also cited two separate studies, including one on Ghanaian players, which concluded that there is no “significant” correlation between age and the “degree of fusion.” Elsewhere, the report mentioned that the average age for fusion is 18.3 years.

“Ultimately, there is no known foolproof, scientific test that will allow doctors—or sports regulators—to determine an individual’s age. The science suggests that applying a lone wrist MRI test to make such determinations is inappropriate at best and potentially harmful at worst,” according to the magazine. Enough reasons for Nepal’s under-16s to feel that life isn’t fair?

On Monday afternoon, HT e-mailed the media office of the local organising committee of the Asian under-16 meet seeking a reaction from Dr Singh but, till almost 24 hours later hadn’t got one.