Why can’t you hurdle in high school football? (Answered!)

Some things that are allowed in the NFL are not allowed in high school football. Why can’t you hurdle in high school football?

hurdle in high school football

Hurdling is illegal in high school football because it can lead to injuries. Arguably, high school players are not skilled enough to jump over other players without getting hurt. In professional and college football, it is legal. 

As a high school football referee, I enforce the rule against hurdling. While one could argue that it should be legal, there are reasonable reasons for it not to be. It might remain legal in college and professional football but illegal in high school football.

Why Can’t You Hurdle in High School Football?

Hurdling is not allowed for the sake of safety. Hurdling sometimes leads to serious injuries and those that wanted rules against it got their way. 

Hurdling is jumping over another player. In college and professional football, it is an effective way to avoid being tackled. In high school football, it is not allowed and results in penalties for the team. 

What is Hurdling?

When the ball carrier jumps over a defending player that is only touching the ground with their feet, that counts as a hurdle. If the defending player is on the ground (touching it with their knees or arms) that does not count as a hurdle. Jumping over a player that is on the ground is legal. 

Why Do Players Hurdle?

When the ball carrier is about to be tackled by a defending player, they might jump over them to avoid being tackled. If the ball carrier cannot avoid the lineman by moving to the left or right, they might jump to avoid the collision. This is dangerous enough that people disagree on whether it should be legal. 

Hurdling is instinctive, so many players do it even in high school football. When you are about to collide with another person that you can’t avoid, jumping is instinctive. You jump so that you don’t get hurt. 

Penalties for Hurdling in High School Football

You can get a 15-yard penalty for hurdling in high school football. This is as serious as spearing an offensive player, which also carries a 15-yard penalty. Spearing as a defensive player results in an automatic first down for the offense. 

hurdle in high school football

The Player Hurdling May Get Hurt

When injuries happen, it isn’t always the player being jumped over that gets hurt. Sometimes, the player jumping over the other gets injured. 

When you hurdle over another player, you might fall in a way that leads to injury. You might put your arm out to break the fall and injure your arm. You might also collide with other players after leaping over one. 

Should Hurdling be Legal in High School Football?

Part of the reason why hurdles are illegal at the high school level is that players are less skilled. Jumping over someone that has only their feet on the ground is not easy and requires a lot of strength and agility. There’s a difference between a professional player hurdling over someone and a high school player doing this. 

It also isn’t fair to force the other player to do anything illegal. If you hurdle another player, you might force them to spear you or tackle you illegally. 

However, hurdling is probably riskier for the player that chooses to hurdle. They are mostly risking getting hurt themselves, not risking hurting the other player. This makes it different from spearing another player. 

High School Football is Relatively Safe

Possibly, hurdling should be legal as long as it doesn’t lead to significantly more injuries. If significantly more people get hurt, it can go back to being illegal in high school football. 

High school football can be dangerous, but it’s relatively safe compared to professional football. A lot of people are injured, but the injury rate is lower than for the NFL. It is not as dangerous relative to other sports as some people believe. 

Hurdling May Prevent Injuries Sometimes

The best argument for allowing hurdling in high school football is that it often prevents rather than causes injuries. If a ball carrier is about to crash into a defensive lineman, they can avoid a dangerous collision by hurdling the player. 

A defender might dive at the legs of a ball carrier. Leaping over them is an effective way to play and might prevent anyone from getting hurt.

hurdle in high school football

Hurdling in College Football

In the past, hurdling also got you a penalty in college football. However, the NCAA changed the rules around twenty years ago, and now hurdling is legal. There are only exceptional cases where hurdling is not allowed. 

Hurdling in Professional Football

Hurdling is legal in professional football, and fans are impressed by strong and agile players that can hurdle effectively. You can make an amazing play if you do it at the right time and lose the ball if you do it at the wrong time. 

Leaping over a line of defenders to block a kick is no longer allowed. This is disappointing because it took incredible skill to do. However, there was too much potential for serious injuries. 

Key Takeaways

  • Hurdling, or jumping over another player that has only their feet on the ground, is illegal in high school football. You will get a 15-yard penalty.
  • Hurdling is usually legal in the NFL and in college football. It used to be illegal in college football, but the NCAA changed the rules. 
  • You can legally jump over someone that is on the ground even in high school football. Jumping over someone that has their knees or legs on the ground is not considered hurdling. 
  • It is not obvious whether hurdling should be allowed on the high school football field. Possibly, it would not significantly increase the number of injuries. 

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