Can You Use Your Shoulder in Soccer Or Not? (Know in Detail)

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Soccer is a sport known to be played using only the lower part of the body. That’s why further offenses are given to players who use their hands and arms to take control of the ball, even if it’s accidental.

However, it’s not rare to see players passing, blocking players with their shoulders, and aiming for the goal. That’s why people find it ironic and ask how this is not an offense.

We’ll find out in the article how you can use your shoulders legally in playing soccer. 

Can You Use Your Shoulder In Soccer?

Yes, you can use your shoulder in passing, defending, and scoring a goal. Using your shoulder in a soccer match might confuse anyone, as it is mostly seen as a foul from afar.

There’s no rule against players using their shoulders in play, as long as it doesn’t exhibit dangerous and reckless purposes, as that might lead to a foul.

Let’s look into these rules a little further.

FIFA Rules on Using Your Shoulder in Soccer

The official laws of soccer are maintained by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), where FIFA holds 50% of the voting power. Upon reading their long list of guidelines, it is clear that using your shoulder is not a violation and shouldn’t limit the player from using it.

Using your shoulder in passing, defending, and shooting the goal is not a handball offense in the laws of the game.

It doesn’t violate the handball offense, as the handball offense only states that it’s considered an offense if you use the upper boundary of the arm (which is aligned with your elbow) down to your hands. 

The confusion comes from the boundary of the shoulder and the hands and arm, but the guidelines were already specified. After all, it’s still up to the judgment of the referee to determine whether the ball hit the player’s shoulder or arm. 

Cristiano Ronaldo Unique Chest passes

Here’s an example of Ronaldo passing the ball using his shoulders. Though it’s uncommon for players to use this technique, it’s not something they’re not allowed to do; this technique also takes place occasionally, just like the game shown above.

Proper Shoulder Charge Technique

The law of charging only becomes a foul if you use your shoulder on an opponent whose shoulders are out. For it not to be called an offense, players of opposing sides should be shoulder to shoulder, with their arms on their sides and at least one foot on the ground. 

Shoulder charging can be considered a legal maneuver in gaining possession of the ball. It is legally accepted to do this, given that the circumstances are:

1. The ball in play is within proximity of the players. 

2. It should be shoulder to shoulder and NOT on the player’s back or chest. 

A player’s strength is something that can’t be predicted (some players are stronger than others in terms of using force), so it’s something that referees can’t control – if you use force, just make sure that it’s not done excessively or recklessly.

Now that you know this, you can improve your shoulder use in your next game.

Tips for Improving Shoulder Use in Soccer

It’s important to take note of these techniques to further use your shoulder in soccer without violating any laws.

Ensure that your elbow and arm are kept close to your body when leaning into an opponent for defense (shoulder-to-shoulder charging). This will automatically allow you to defend the ball without earning an offense. 

Another tip you can use is if the ball is in the air, and players are trying to get control of it, it’s best to use the shoulder for aerial battle, to possibly gain ownership over the ball, or to score a goal.

Just make sure that no player is around you when doing this technique to avoid hitting another player, as that may be subject to a foul.

It’s also best to give your body a solid base to avoid falling down or getting any injuries. One tip you can use to do this is to crouch, as it also allows you to exert force and strength. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Soccer games can give any player a huge adrenaline surge, especially if the opportunity of getting the ball is just in front of you. However, it is important to AVOID these things so you won’t ruin your chances of playing a good game.

It’s best to inject in your mind that you should not, at any cost, use your hands and arms. Only goalkeepers are allowed to use these in the penalty area, plus it completely violates the laws, and will probably lead to an offense. Always keep in mind not to touch the ball with your hands and arms if you’re not the goalkeeper.

It’s also important to note that any use of violence will lead to a foul. Make sure not to push other players around intentionally, especially if the ball in play is not in proximity.

You should also use the shoulder charging ON-SIDE ONLY to avoid the referee from deeming the technique off-side.

What is the Difference Between a Legal Shoulder Charge and a Foul?

A legal shoulder charge is when you defend the ball by being shoulder-to-shoulder with your opponent, with your arms on your side and at least one foot on the ground.

It is legal in the laws of soccer, given that the ball in play is in proximity, plus you’re not stacked up against your opponent’s back or chest, which may be seen as your technique for further advances.

A legal shoulder charge is not a violation of the laws of the game AS LONG AS IT’S NOT DONE EXCESSIVELY or violates the handball rules. 

A shoulder charge is deemed a foul if the player deliberately touches the ball with their hands and arms (official standards state that the arm that’s in line with your elbow is considered an arm), in accordance with the law of handball.

Shoulder charges are also considered foul if their technique is shown to be dangerous, careless, reckless, and excessive. The IFAB has a set of guidelines to distinguish these categories, so fair play should be standard. 

According to IFAB’s Law of the Game, it is labeled as a dangerous force when a player’s action threatens their opponents from playing the ball for fear of injury.

It’s also considered a dangerous force when the player is threatening to injure themselves to get a free kick or penalty.

The careless act is when the player is not cautious of their action on the field. Reckless playing is when the players act without considering the safety of their opponents. Excessive force is when the force used endangers its opponent.

These categories are specified further in the Laws of Game, so you can check them out if you want to know more about these precautions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Push With Your Shoulder in Soccer?

You can push with your shoulders ONLY if you follow the shoulder-to-shoulder charging rules and when you and your opponent are contesting for the ball. Intentional pushing without the ball in proximity can lead to a foul.

Can You Score With Your Shoulder?

Yes! You can definitely score with your shoulder. There are no rules that stop the player from scoring using their shoulder, given that they don’t touch the ball with their arms or hands (this is a handball violation). 

When to Use Your Shoulder in Soccer?

You can use your shoulder if you’re passing the ball, defending the ball from opponents, or scoring a goal.

Is Using Your Shoulder a Foul?

It only becomes a foul if you touch the ball with your arm and if you use excessive force that may compromise the safety of players around you (including yourself). 

Is Using Your Shoulder a Handball?

Using your shoulder is not a handball. Using your arm is. In standard practices, an arm starts with the sphere of your arm that is aligned with your armpit.


Yes, you can use your shoulder in soccer, as long as it’s used in fair play. As sports is something that promotes camaraderie and fairness, it’s really important to make sure that you’re doing your part, without the expense of others, or your opponents.

The art of using your shoulders is something not taught; it is something that you can customize with your own capabilities. Just bear in mind the guidelines we’ve mentioned in this article for a seamless soccer game!

Don’t forget that practice also helps you to master your move in the field, so it’s best to practice frequently so you can know your game once you’re in the field.

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