Can You Use Your Arms in Soccer? Helpful Facts

In soccer, you can use your arms in certain situations. But outfield players can’t use their arms to touch the ball and control it.

Here are some of the most important rules I’ll take through, plus some other tricks in the game;

  • Using your hands
  • Arms
  • Elbows

So, let’s look at ways soccer players can and can’t use their arms in soccer.

x
Ronaldo

When you can use your arms in soccer

  • To defend – you can use your arms to shield the ball. This video will show you how:
  • To communicate – let your teammates know you want the ball by using your arms.
  • For balance – you can put your arms out to help you balance.
  • To jump – it’s difficult to jump high without using your arms. Just be careful with your elbows.
  • To run – ever see a soccer player running without using their arms? Didn’t think so.
  • If you’re a goalie – this means you can use your arms inside your 18-yard box.

When you can’t use your arms in soccer

  • To touch the ball – outfield players can’t touch the ball with their arms.
  • To push – see the next section.
  • To grab a player or their shirt – the referee will give a foul.
  • To protect your face – if you raise your arm to protect your face from the ball, the referee will give a foul if the ball touches your arm.

Can you push in soccer?

No, you can’t push in soccer. If a referee thinks one player pushed another, she’ll give a foul against the offending player.

That means pushing is a foul in soccer.

But what is considered a push in soccer?

Here’s the deal, there’s an obvious push and a not-so-obvious push. And the referee must decide on whether to give a foul or not.

  • A push in the back with outstretched arms is an obvious push. If the referee sees a push in the back, they’ll always give a foul.

But there are times when a push is less obvious. For example, check out the video below:

As we see, the push in the example is less obvious. The assistant on the touchline helps the referee and waves for a foul.

So, the referee and assistants must decide if one player pushed another. But once a push is called, it’ll always be a foul.

Can you use your shoulder in soccer?

Yes, you can use your shoulder in soccer. It’s called a shoulder charge or a shoulder tackle.

But your arm must be in a certain position to do the move legally.

As long as you don’t raise your elbow, you can shoulder charge. So, keep your elbow tucked into your side when using your shoulder. And always use your shoulder against the opponent’s shoulder.

For example, a shoulder charge to an opponent’s back will always be a foul.

But that’s not all, because even a shoulder charge to an opponent’s shoulder can sometimes be a foul.

  • The trick is not to lean into the opponent. Keep your body upright, elbow tucked into your side, and bump your shoulder against the opponent’s shoulder.

Done correctly, that’ll be enough to nudge the opponent away from the ball.

Check out this video to see the shoulder charge in action:

So, you don’t have to be super aggressive when doing a shoulder charge in soccer. Just use enough force to bump the player off the ball.

If you shoulder charge too aggressively, the referee is likely to give a foul against you. That’s because player safety is important.

But wait, there’s another use for the shoulder in soccer. And we’ve left the best to last.

You can score a goal with your shoulder in soccer

That’s right, players can touch the ball with their shoulders to either control it or score a goal.

Because technically, the shoulder isn’t considered part of the arm in soccer. The arm is from the tips of the fingers up to the shoulder, but not including the shoulder.

That’s why you can score with your shoulder, like former Manchester City player Mario Balotelli did here:

Can you use your elbows in soccer?

No, you can’t use your elbows in soccer. It’s extremely dangerous to raise your elbows when playing soccer.

An elbow strike to the face can cause serious injury.

If you use your elbows to stop a player from getting the ball, the referee will give a foul against you. And it’ll likely be a red card if you use the elbow to intentionally hurt a player.

  • Sometimes it can be difficult to keep your elbows down, like when jumping for the ball. But if your elbow is endangering your opponent, the referee will give a foul.

So, keep those elbows down to avoid a foul. It’s best to keep your elbows tucked into your sides whenever possible. This is the best option for a safe game.

Two Soccer Players Challenging For The Ball
Two Soccer Players Challenging For The Ball

Can you use your hands in soccer?

No, you can’t use your hands in soccer, unless you’re the goalkeeper. If outfield players deliberately handle the ball in soccer, the referee will give a foul.

Also, you can’t use your hands to grab an opponent. If you grab an opponent’s arm or tug on their shirt with your hands, it’s a foul.

Now, that’s not to say that if your hand touches an opponent, it’ll be a foul.

Let’s suppose you have the ball and you’re shielding it from an opponent. If your hand touches their chest or shoulder, the referee is unlikely to give a foul.

  • By contrast, if your hand touches the opponent’s face in the same scenario, the referee will likely give a foul against you.

So, you can’t handle the ball in soccer, unless you’re the goalie. And you can’t grab an opponent or touch their face with your hands.

The best thing is to keep your hands down low when possible.

Why can’t you use your hands in soccer?

You can’t use your hands in soccer because it’s against the rules of the game.

Law 12 of the IFAB Laws of the Game 2021-22 states:

Handling the ball Is an offense if the player;

  • Deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm
  • Touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger.
  • Scores in the opponents’ goal:
  • Directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper
  • Immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental

Also, the goalkeeper can’t handle the ball outside their own 18-yard box.

Using your hands against opponents

As already mentioned, you can’t push an opponent, grab them, or tug their shirt. Additionally, you can’t touch their face with your hands.

So, you can’t use your hands in these situations either. Using your hands against an opponent like this will result in a foul.

And a foul is given for breaking the rules of the game. That means using your hands in the outlined situations is against the rules of the game. That’s why you can’t use your hands in soccer.


Thank you for reading our articles - we hoped you've enjoyed them and are having fun playing, coaching, and watching soccer.

Soccer Blade is an affiliate and an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases - at no extra cost to you.