Can You Use Your Shoulder in Soccer?

Can You Use Your Shoulder in Soccer?

Soccer is mostly played at the waist-down but sometimes a player will use their head and chest. But, many soccer fans wonder, “Can you use your shoulder in soccer?” The answer is yes, you can use your shoulder in soccer.

The rules allow a player to use his or her shoulder to touch the ball when it’s in play.

You can also use your shoulder to lean into an opponent if you are making a play on the ball.

Shoulder Area Soccer

In this article, we’ll address the right way to play the ball with your shoulder and how to correctly leverage your shoulder to get the ball from an opponent.

What Part of the Arm Can You Use?

A player can only use their shoulder to play the ball. The arm and hands are not permitted and the referee will award the other team a free or penalty kick.

There’s a grey area where many players don’t really know understand the point where the shoulder ends and arm begins so they tend to forgo using their shoulder altogether. Check out the graphic to the right that illustrates it better than words can describe.

For those moments that the shoulder comes in “handy” (no pun intended), it can be effective and even WOW the sidelines.

Here’s an example of Cristiano Ronaldo using his shoulder to pass in the World Cup. Pretty clever stuff 🤩

What is Considered a Handball?

As you probably know, a handball is when a player’s hand or arm touches the ball which results in a foul. A shoulder isn’t considered part of the arm.

Although it can be speculative in some cases, the referee has the ultimate say.

The only times when a player can touch the ball in these circumstances:

  • Goalkeeper picks the ball up in his/her penalty area
  • Throw-in or penalty kick to spot the ball

The current handball rule as established by IFAB (International Football Association Board) states a handball is an offense when a player:

  • Deliberately touches the ball with their hand or arm. For example, moving their arm purposefully to touch the ball.
  • Touches the ball with their hand or arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger.
  • Scores in the opposition’s goal directly from their hand or arm even if it was accidental.

In summary, you can use your shoulder to pass or score a goal. It is legal and not part of the arm or hands.

Using Your Shoulders to Lean Into a Defender

It is also legal in soccer to go shoulder-to-shoulder (also known as a shoulder tackle) with an opponent to make a play on the ball. A player can do so as long as it is not considered dangerous, careless, reckless or using excessive force.

As you can imagine and may have witnessed, referees will call shoulder-to-shoulder differently from one game to another. It is not so cut and dry.

The best thing a player can do is bump shoulders with the body leaning a bit while maintaining balance…and don’t extend the arms.

If a referee determines that a play was dangerous, careless, reckless or using excessive force, the player will most likely get cautioned or even get a red card pulled on them.

Final Words About Using Your Shoulder

I hope this article has cleared up some misconceptions. A player should feel comfortable using their shoulder whether to pass the ball or make a play on the ball. It is perfectly legal to do so.

Engaging every part of your body to play the game can be a player’s advantage.

Using a shoulder to fight for a 50/50 ball can make a huge difference in a soccer match.

As youth players mature, the game gets more physical. It is crucial to use your upper body to defend, fight and shield the ball.

Become a well-rounded player and consider adding your shoulder game to your arsenal!

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      Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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