Spearing (gridiron football)

For the action penalized in rugby football, see spear tackle.

Spearing or spear tackling is a method of tackling in American and Canadian football in which a player uses their body as a spear (head out, arms by their side), whether it be in attack or defence. It is considered legal as long as players do not make initial contact with their head. Illegal use of a spear in gridiron results in either a 15-yard penalty if the offensive player commits the foul or an automatic first down if it is the defensive player.

It is a common cause of catastrophic cervical spinal cord injuries, which result from axial loading. Recognition of such injuries resulted in rule changes in 1976, banning such tackles for high school and college football, after which incidence of these injuries dropped significantly. For example, incidence of quadriplegia decreased from 2.24 and 10.66 per 100,000 participants in high school and college football in 1976, to 1.30 and 2.66 per 100,000 participants in 1977.[1]


  1. ↑ Rakel, David; Rakel, Robert E. (2011). Textbook of Family Medicine (8 ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 9781437735673.
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