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Why Can’t You Use Your Hands in Soccer? 5 Main Reasons

Why Can’t You Use Your Hands in Soccer? 5 Main Reasons

Every sport that exists is guided by certain rules and regulations which every participant of that sport must duly abide by. Soccer is no different. It has laid down rules which every soccer player and coach must abide by.

Soccer is a contact sport that involves the use of almost every part of the body most especially the legs during play. But unlike basketball and American football, the use of hands is partially restricted in soccer.

Soccer players are allowed to use their hands in rare cases like defending, during a throw-in, and for balance. However, they are highly restricted from using their hands on the soccer ball and against an opponent.

Soccer players are always cautious of this fact so they try as much as possible not to touch the ball or use their hands to hold it because they will be penalized if they do so.

In soccer, goalkeepers are the only soccer players that have the liberty of using every part of their body to control the ball including their hands. However, this privilege is also restricted to their 18-yard box—outside of which they lose the freedom to use their hands.

The goalkeeper is using one hand to save a ball

Some people might be wondering why the rules of soccer have allowed soccer players to use other parts of their body but are restricted on the use of their hands during matches. Is there any special reason why soccer players are not allowed to use their hands?

We have got you covered if you find it difficult to understand this soccer concept. In this article, we have carefully pointed out the different reasons why soccer players cannot use their hands in soccer and also what happens if they do.

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Why can’t you use your hands in soccer?

A soccer player is partially restricted from using his or her hands to carry out soccer activities although soccer players are free to make use of other parts of their bodies. The laws of the game state that a soccer player must not handle the ball else he or she will be penalized for the act.

The hands in the case of soccer refer to all parts from the shoulder down to the tips of the fingers. Once the hand touches the ball, it is regarded as a handball and a foul is blown, the guilty player is often panelized for this act.

Our studies show that in ancient times (around the 16th century) when soccer was still in its formative stage, the ball was held with the hands during play. Back then, the hands were also used to carry out various activities like punching the ball which made soccer a violent and rough game.

In England, in the year 1863, the first football association was formed and they set a rule that restricted soccer players from carrying the ball with their hands.

Perhaps, restricting the use of the hands is one of the striking differences that sets association football apart from American football. Also, in recent years, soccer is promoted as a game of wits and tactics—hence the reason behind the frequent hiring and firing of managers.

If hands were to be allowed, it will reduce the game to strength rather than wits. This also explains why soccer players spent a lot of time sharpening their passing and dribbling skills rather than trying to build muscles and stamina.

At the moment, brawls, pushing, pulling, and so on are not allowed in soccer and it has made fans detest players that often engage in such acts. If soccer players were allowed to use their hands, you can bet that you will see more of these actions in every game.

Some soccer variations like beach soccer don’t allow players (exception of the goalkeepers) because games are restarted as kick-ins rather than throw-ins. We all know that throw-in is one of the times when soccer players are free to handle the ball with their palms.

Goalkeepers are usually free to handle, pick, throw, and block the ball with their hands although it must be done within their penalty area else it becomes registered as a foul. In summary, the rule that bans the use of hands in soccer is to make the game more tactical rather than physical.

The ball is in the goalkeeper's hand

The hands are part of the body that can be useful in easily carrying out many activities in soccer which is why its usage is not completely banned in the sport. Below are some instances where soccer players are allowed to make use of their hands during a match.

  • For defending

Soccer players can use their hands to defend, it is accepted in the rules of the game. They can shield the ball from an opponent with their hands but they must not allow their hands to make contact with the ball while defending.

The hands and arms are good tools for defending and soccer players take adequate advantage of them during matches.

  • Throw-in

In soccer, a throw-in is used for play restart whenever the soccer ball goes over the touchline of the field. When this happens, the team that last touched the ball will not be allowed to do the throw-in.

A player from the rival team will go to the spot the ball crossed the sideline and carry out a proper throw-in by standing with both feet on the ground and throwing the soccer ball with both hands over to their teammates.

A child player is taking a throw-in

  • Before a penalty or free-kick

Once the referee blows the whistle to make a decision, the game becomes paused, for a penalty kick, the referee hands over the ball to the player who is to play it to place it on the spot where they will play from.

For a free-kick, a player can handle the ball because the game is paused and inactive. Before playing a free-kick, a soccer player can comfortably carry the ball to the right spot before playing.

Apparently, soccer players can touch or hold the ball anytime the game is paused for any reason.

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  • Balance

For optimal performance, soccer players need good balance so they can easily change direction, move the ball around, and have full control over the soccer ball.

To achieve this, the hands are essential and have an important effect on the soccer player’s balance because the hands are directly responsible for the body’s symmetry.


Although soccer players can use their hands in some aspects of the game, they are always cautious not to use their hands in the wrong way to avoid being penalized. Below are some reasons why soccer players are restricted from using their hands in soccer.

It is not a handball sport

Soccer is a sport solely designed to be played with the feet, therefore it wouldn’t make much sense if the hands are included. In the current design of sports today, all the games that make use of the hands prohibit or limit the use of legs and vice versa.

Hands and feet are very crucial in any sport, that is why for any type of sport either of the two is usually applied and not both at once.

Even though during the inception of soccer, the hands were also included alongside the feet, it was later scrapped after seeing that they were not compatible.

Games that use the hands like American football and basketball follow different rules from soccer, their rules guide them on how to safely use their hands to play but soccer does not accommodate those rules since it is concentrated on the feet.

Difficulty in retrieving the ball from opponents

One of the excitements that come with playing soccer is the tactic soccer players often use in retrieving the soccer ball from their opponents using just their feet, it sometimes looks magical and electrifying.

If the hands and feet were used to play soccer, it will be very difficult to retrieve the soccer ball from opponents because players in possession of the soccer ball will use both their feet or hands to keep the ball in possession, and by doing so, the purpose of the game will be lost.

Soccer is a fair game that gives equal chances to both participating teams in a match, and so, it will be unfair if one team has more advantage than the other team during play.

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Pushing an opponent

If soccer players were allowed to use their hands while playing, they might resort to pushing and dragging.

In an attempt to fend off or stiff-arm an opponent while trying to go through with the ball, the player with the ball might have no other option but to push their way through. This act is not acceptable in soccer because it is regarded as unsafe.

Even if soccer players are allowed to defend with their hands, they are not allowed to push or put out their hands aggressively against an opponent, if this happens, they will be penalized by the referee immediately. The same rule goes for struggling for the ball

If the hands were used in soccer and a player wishes to retrieve the ball from an opponent, they both might end up struggling for the ball with their hands which might lead to them exchanging blows.

Using the hands against an opponent by touching their face, grabbing them, or even a push is an offense in soccer.

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Players may sustain more injuries

Although in soccer, injuries are bound to occur. However, we are sure that the incidence of injuries would have been higher if the hands were used alongside the feet in soccer.

In modern soccer, the most noticeable injuries are witnessed in the limb and leg regions because they are the main parts of the body used for playing soccer.

If the hands were included in the game, the nature of the game will be more aggressive and violent which will lead to soccer players sustaining more injuries than expected.

The hands can easily inflict an injury on another player, for instance, if a player defends with his or her hands wrongly or points out his or her hands to fend off an opponent, the player might unconsciously inflict an injury to the eyes of the opponent.

This is part of the reason why American football players wear helmets and shields to protect themselves from injuries.

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Soccer players will easily wear out

Basketball and American football are both played with mostly hands and they last for 48 and 60 minutes respectively. Soccer is played with the feet and it lasts for 90 minutes and can even stretch to 120 minutes.

If soccer players were allowed to play with their hands and feet, they would wear out even before halftime. This is because the energy they will need to play effectively will be double what they are presently using.

When a soccer player intentionally touches the ball while the game is still on, the player is either given a yellow card or a red card and a free kick or penalty is awarded to the opposition.

Some unintentional touches are not often regarded as handball­­—for instance, if the ball is kicked into another player’s hand before he or she can move their hands, the referee will not penalize the player as it is considered an unintentional handball.

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The use of hands is not restricted from soccer, but soccer players ought to know when and how to safely use their hands according to the rules of the game. Effective use of hands in soccer is very vital to winning matches and outplaying your opponents.

To avoid being penalized while using your hands in playing soccer, it is advisable to let your feet do most of the playing on the soccer pitch because relying too much on the hands can put you in a tight and dangerous corner.

So, the right question should be when can a soccer player safely use their hands? Interestingly, we have covered all the instances in detail and you can find it here.