Skip to Content
The Pitch is Ours is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read more

Can You Use Your Head in Soccer?

Can You Use Your Head in Soccer?

Soccer players are celebrated not only for their deft footwork but also for how they use other parts of their bodies like the head in skillfully hitting balls.

Using the head in soccer is a crucial stratagem that players employ to their advantage, especially during an aerial contest for the ball.

It is almost impossible to watch any soccer match without witnessing players using their heads. However, it may surprise you to understand that the frequent practice of using your head in soccer games has significant long-term consequences.

Just like the use of shoulders, soccer players don’t always get the chance to use their heads in a game. Soccer’s governing body has imposed certain boundaries for the safety and sanity of the sport.

In this post, we’ll explain what it means to utilize your head in soccer, the appropriate time to use your head in soccer, and the risks related to doing so. We will also discuss FIFA’s guidelines regarding using the head.

Soccer player use his head to hit the ball

Can you use your head in soccer?

If you talk about ‘using your head’ in the context of reasoning, then, you will need to use it a lot in soccer. From calculating your pass to timing your runs, every success in soccer relies on how well you ‘use your head’.

If you are talking about physically using your head in soccer, that is also legal too. Players almost always contest for aerial balls using their heads. You can easily get into trouble when you use your elbow in soccer but less likely with your head.

The technique of heading the ball is widely employed in all types of soccer. Soccer players have not only mastered this technique but have also demonstrated professionalism in executing it.

There are certain instances when the ball just can’t be played or controlled with the legs or other permitted parts of the body simply because it is in the air.

In such circumstances or occasions, the most sensible tactic in controlling the ball would be the skillful use of the head. Tall players usually get the advantage when it comes to using their heads while playing soccer, compared to their shorter counterparts.

Players who know how to direct shots with their head are always very dangerous in the 18-yard box, especially when corner kicks or free kicks are taken.

Soccer player shot the ball with his head

All soccer variations allow the use of the head. However, you are more likely to see this practice more in association football—and it has something to do with the nature of the balls and the size of the pitch in the different soccer variations.

Futsal balls are usually harder and players try as much as they can to avoid using their heads. Also, the futsal pitch is smaller (with a smaller goalpost) and players rarely make long high passes as you will see in association football.

Likewise, the smaller nature of beach soccer pitches means fewer long passes. Also, since beach soccer balls are the softest in all the soccer variations, it is hard to muster enough force to drive it past the keeper (who has a smaller goalpost to guard) using your head—except in a situation that requires placement rather than force.

Liverpool 2-1 Brighton | Van Dijk headers see off Brighton | Highlights

What is a header or heading in soccer?

In soccer, heading, or a header as some chose to call it, is when a player intentionally hits the ball with their head to move it in a specific direction.

A header is an acceptable technique often used by players in controlling balls, passing balls, shooting, or clearing balls away from danger in association soccer, street soccer, beach soccer, or any other styles of soccer.

Standing, jumping, or diving can all be employed when heading soccer balls. You can select whichever method suits you, as long as it is safe, accurate, and effective.

A player’s neck muscle must be braced to properly head a ball. To hit balls effectively when heading, players must move their entire body in a single quick motion to generate enough energy that will direct the ball towards an intended target.

Soccer players frequently head balls back and forth during training to further improve this skill. In a competitive context, players often head balls with more force and accuracy when an opportunity presents itself.

Soccer player hold the soccer ball on her head

When should a player use the head in soccer?

Soccer balls are usually designed to be kicked around but that doesn’t mean they will remain grounded throughout a match. Balls used in soccer are bouncy and can freely travel in the air, depending on how much force is used in kicking them.

When players can’t reach the soccer ball with their feet, the next suitable option would be using the head, since the use of hands is not entirely allowed in soccer.

While the ball is in the air, aside from the goalkeeper in their goal area, other players can only utilize their heads in possessing the ball or changing its direction as intended.

Even goalkeepers who are allowed to use their hands are restricted to using them only in their 18-yard box. Outside of this area, they are mandated to use their heads in controlling the ball if it is in the air.

Aside from intentional high-passes and up-balls, corner kicks and freekicks are some of the most common instances that call for the use of the head in soccer.

Defenders do not go unnoticed when it comes to using their heads. When a goal-bound ball is in the air, a defender will often employ a header when other means seem ineffective in preventing opponents from scoring.

Soccer players have good reasons for using their heads while playing, especially when the ball is above their shoulder. With the head, players can also demonstrate one or more skills like juggling or balancing balls.

Soccer player use his head to hit the ball on the field

Is using the head allowed in soccer?

From the onset, soccer players have used their heads during soccer games. Since the creation of FIFA, this has been one of the game’s rules.

Most soccer legends are mostly famous for scoring goals with their heads in very difficult circumstances. Among them are players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Oliver Giroud, among others.

Cristiano Ronaldo is one player that has scored the most headers in this century. According to an infographic report, since the year 2000, he has scored over 100 goals with his head.

In the English Premier League in 2020, Oliver Giroud scored the most headers. Records show that he scored 37% of his goals with his head.

However, there are times when the use of the head can be described as a dangerous plan and an indirect freekick may be awarded by the referee to the opponent. This is particularly the case with a low heading.

There is no strict definition of low heading. However, any ball that is at a height that can easily be reached with the feet without a vertical stretch is low. The referee will likely blow a foul against the player using his or her head rather than the player that went for the ball with his or her foot.

According to the Laws of the Game, a dangerous play is any action that threatens the safety of any player on the pitch including the person performing the action. Low heading happens to fall under this category.

Soccer player on the air try to fight for the ball with their head

The risks of using the head in soccer

Concerns regarding the safety of using the head in soccer as well as its possible link to brain damage have grown over the years. Most parents fear that this technique has the potential of injuring the brain, especially in children with weaker skulls.

Ball-to-head contact can cause several injuries among amateur players—imagine how much more damage it will have on the head. Head injuries can also happen when two players jump for the ball and make an unintentional head-to-head collision.

Short-term wooziness sometimes comes upon soccer players when they head the ball. According to a study by the University of Delaware researchers, repetitive head hits may induce minor neurological abnormalities that were previously undetected.

Other research shows that one type of dementia (known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE) appears to exist primarily among people who experience recurrent brain assaults.

Numerous high-profile members of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning side have been diagnosed with dementia, and the sport bears the blame.

Soccer player hurt at the head

The United States promptly implemented several restrictions (Under-11 and below are not allowed to use their heads in soccer) in response to the potential dangers of using the head in soccer.

Following a lawsuit filed by a group of concerned parents and players against the US Soccer Federation, the heading of the ball was banned in the United States for children aged 10 and below in 2015.

Though the United States was the first country to outlaw heading in soccer among minors, other countries are quickly following suit.

The Scottish Football Association in 2020 made it illegal for children to head balls. In February 2020, the United Kingdom made it illegal for kids aged 11 and under to wear helmets in soccer games and training.

In addition, a joint notification from the FA, Scottish FA, and Irish FA issued on Monday 24th February 2020 informed coaches that “no heading should be allowed in training for the foundation phase”.

This comprises elementary school children or Under-11 teams and lower. It also recommends using a safer approach to heading for youngsters in U12 to U16 teams.

The table below contains more detailed information concerning this topic.

Age GroupHeading frequency
U6, U7, U8, U9, U10, U11The use of the head should not be introduced in training sessions at this age
U12The use of the head should be less prioritized – one session per month and a maximum of five headers
U13The use of the head should be in low frequency – one session per week and a maximum of five headers
U14, U15, U16The use of the head remains a low priority – one session per week and a maximum of ten headers
U18Heading drills should be reduced as much as possible, taking into consideration the minimally-allowed heading exposure in matches

From the fa-heading-guidance issued by the FA.

Kid hold the soccer ball on his head

What happens when young players use their heads in soccer?

If a match official sees a young soccer player head the ball, the official must stop play, inform the player that he or she is not allowed to use the head.

The play should restart with an indirect free kick to the opposing team from where the player headed or attempted to head the ball.

Should this happen inside the goal area, the replay should be moved to the 6-yard line at a point nearest to where the player headed or attempted to head the ball. This does not apply to a player being struck in the head by a fast-traveling ball.

The match official might stop play in this circumstance to evaluate a potential injury, if the affected player shows any signs of injury, the referee must call the attention of medics.

Heading the ball is not a breach of soccer laws but referees must recognize the safety requirements of players. Referees must apply common sense while making decisions.

For example, even though a player heading the ball away from the goal meets the criterion for denying a goal-scoring opportunity by definition, it should not be used to the detriment of other players’ safety.

Similarly, younger players who head the ball should never receive a caution or be dismissed. Instead, the referee must focus on ensuring that they realize that the use of their heads in soccer is not permitted until they are older since it is dangerous.

Kid prepair to use his head to hit the soccer ball

How to minimize risk to the head

While it is impossible to completely avoid brain injuries while playing soccer, there are strategies to minimize the risk. Soccer players should adopt the following steps below to improve the safety of using their heads in the sport.

  • Stick to the guidelines
  • Be a good sportsman and follow the rules to the latter during matches. This reduces your risk of injuring yourself or other players by accident
  • Wear a safety soccer helmet if needed
  • Train adequately
Surlim Rugby Helmet Headguard Headgear for Soccer Scrum Cap Soft Protective Helmet for Kids Youth (Black, Large)
  • 1、Suitable for a Variety of Sports--Headgear for rugby, soccer,flag football, 7 on 7.
  • 2、Excellent Safety Performance. -- The material is polyester and high density foam. Adjustable...
  • 3、Extremely Comfortable. -- Lightweight, soft. This rugby helmet are comfortable to wear. Enjoy...

Last update on 2023-11-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Coaches can educate soccer players on how to regulate their movements better. If you’re concerned about getting brain injuries, speak with your coach.

To ensure your safety while using your head in soccer, make sure you learn the technique properly from people with experience in the game.


In soccer, learning how to use the head properly is a necessary talent. This technique has been utilized by professional soccer players for scoring goals, giving passes, and making spectacular saves.

While it is still allowed by the FIFA rule book to use your head in soccer, there is growing concern that the technique may cause neurological disorders such as dementia. Furthermore, because of the soft skull of children, this practice can cause brain damage.

As younger soccer players grow older, they should gradually be taught to use their heads in the game because it will give them an advantage over regular players when they eventually get a spot to play for either local or international soccer clubs.