Stiff Arm in Football

The stiff arm in football is one of the most used techniques for a ball carrier in football. The stiff arm technique which is also known as straight arm technique happens when the ball carrier  straightens their arm to push the defender away, so that the defensive player is not able to take the ball away from the ball carrier, which frequently leads to a missed tackle. It is also considered as one of the trickiest moves in football because the ball carrier needs to perform the move perfectly without hurting the opponent’s defensive player and the defender first needs to remove the stiff arm before tackling the ball carrier. 

When a ball carrier successfully pushes another defender away,  by placing their open hand on that defensive player’s helmet, face mask, or shoulder pads, it is considered a legal stiff arm. But when a ball carrier holds or locks their fingers on the opponent’s face mask, it is considered as an illegal stiff arm. A 15-face mask penalty might be imposed for any grabbing or pulling.

Rules for Stiff Arm in Football

To escape off from a defender who has already made contact, the ball carrier may extend an arm. This requires extending the arm and making contact with a bent elbow.

A ball carrier may target an opposing player by bending their arm at the elbow rather than holding it out in front of them like a weapon. It is acceptable to make contact as long as the elbow is still bent at the time. Even with an open hand, it is prohibited to punch someone with your arm. As long as the arm isn’t pointed in the direction of movement, a ball carrier may hold their arm out at their side to deflect a defender.

While pass blocking, offensive players may stretch both arms straight out in front of them as long as they are not moving or reversing direction. They are not permitted to push off an opponent while advancing forward or to hold their arms out in front of them while doing so. On every running play, they must keep their arms inside the body’s frame and not stretch them outside past a 45-degree angle.

However, defensive players are permitted to use their hands to attempt to grab an opponent anywhere other than the helmet or collar. If a defending player moves their hand in a punching manner towards a ball carrier it is considered as foul. They may shove a ball carrier out of bounds by making contact and extending their bent elbows.

Additionally, defending players are legally allowed to push an offensive blocker by making contact with them while bending their elbows.

A player’s hand may make contact with the side of the helmet as long as that is not the target, but never with the face mask itself.

Points Followed for Performing a Perfect Stiff Arm in Football 

  • Avoiding penalties is the main point to be noticed. Any kind of fist or partially closed hand during the stiff arm in football could be interpreted by the referee as an illegal facial contact or face mask punishment.
  • Secondly, for your safety. The thing we would like is our bent fingers to get up in the defender’s face mask when the rushing back is attempting to reach the edge or sideline and the defender is racing at full speed. That generally leads to a fractured or jammed finger. The straight arm move behaves like a piece of wood that is challenging to break when it is locked out and engaged with a player’s face mask.
  • We know that keeping control over the ball is the first priority in  football . The runner has the best chance to repel defenders and keep the football safe by moving toward the sideline. Therefore, when moving toward the sidelines or the perimeter, stiff arms should be used.
  • One can repel defenders by establishing a strike point with a greater surface area. When going for a face mask with an open hand as opposed to a semi-open or closed hand, the ball carrier has greater chances to make a mistake which can lead to failure.

FAQs Related Stiff Arm

Qs. 1)  What is a stiff arm in football?

Ans – Stiff arm refers to the straighten of the arm which a ball carrier uses to tackle the defensive player of the opposing team by pushing them. It is simply done by the ball carrier to break the tackle of the opponent’s defensive player.

Qs. 2) Is it legal to use Stiff arm in football?

Ans – Yes, the stiff arm is legal in football. The player mainly opens his palm and pushes the opponent player by touching his helmet and  shoulder pads. Since the player is not pulling or grabbing the face mask of the opposing team’s player it is totally legal.

Qs. 3) What if a player grabs or pulls the face mask of the defender while stiff arm?

Ans – If a player intentionally tries to pull or grab the face mask of the opposing team’s defender then it is considered as an illegal stiff arm and if the referee notices this then a penalty will be imposed against the ball carrier for performing such activity.

Qs. 4) What is the penalty for grabbing the face mask ?

Ans – Loss of 15 yards.

 If a player grabs , twists , pushes or pulls the face mask of any player then it is considered as foul and a penalty of loss of 15 yards is given to the team. 

Qs. 5) Can a defender block the stiff arm?

Ans – It is almost impossible to block the stiff arm from the defensive players’ point of view. A ball carrier can use his hands to push or dodge the other players but except him no one can obstruct him by pushing or pulling. So  a defensive player can not block during the stiff arm.


Stiff arm in football is a very useful and effective technique to dodge the players of the opposing team. It basically provides a little extra time to the runner by blocking the defender. The moment when the defensive player will be pushed using this technique the runner will easily surpass the defensive line. Players mainly use this technique towards the sideline of the field and avoid using this when there’s a lot of gathering in the running path of the ball carrier.

ALSO READ – NFL teams which were part of AFL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *