The high school star running back runs down the field, he gets to the 40, a man is in his way, so he takes a flying leap, clearing the defender, and resumes his sprint to the end zone. The referee's whistle blows, the play is dead, and the offense is penalized 15 yards for an illegal contact foul.

It seems to me that the only person with even a potential of getting hurt is the offensive player, but hurdling is still much less dangerous than the receiver who jumps for a pass and is drilled by the safety.

Why would they make hurdling illegal?

P.S. It ruins a ton of amazing plays :(

  • Hurdling is a penalty. In the play given, a flag should have been thrown, but why was the play whistled dead? No foul causes a live ball to become dead.
    – John Elion
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 12:27

2 Answers 2


It is for player safety.

  • if you jump in the air to go over someone you basically put the defender in a position where they must commit an illegal tackle. Really the only/most effective tackle of a guy in the air is to put your head down and spear him... good luck wrapping him up.

  • the player being tackled has a much better chance of getting a helmet to the knee.

  • the player being tackled has a much better chance of getting flipped and suffering a spine injury.

  • the player jumping is just a high school athlete. There are more fails than fabulous plays meaning guys jumping/flipping over other guys come down in bad positions and break bones.

  • the rule used to be no flips or dives. There was just too many grey areas with this rule, "Did I jump over the guy or dive over him?" So the no jumping was put in I think about 10-15 years ago - correct me if I am wrong on this point as all the rules tend to start blending.

Do I personally agree with it? Probably not. But you let this happen and then 10 other things need to happen. Trust me when I was headhunting the RB on defense and blew his ass up with a helmet to helmet the crowd loved that just as much as a RB doing a jump. I would get thrown out of high school games now for what I did every other play when I was playing... It is a different game and you are focusing on one rule without context.


Coach-D gave a fair explanation.

Consider also that a hurdle that doesn't clear the opponent looks like a ninja kick, cleats out, to a defense player.

I assume the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) doesn't want officials having to make a judgement call between a poorly executed hurdle and the personal foul of a ninja kick.

2016 NFHS Football Rules Book

Rule 9-4-3

No player or nonplayer shall: d. Hurdle an opponent. Personal Foul 15 Yards.

Rule 2-22

Hurdling is an attempt by a player to jump (hurdle) with one or both feet or knees foremost over an opponent who is contacting the ground with no part of his body except one or both feet.

Note: Once the opposing player has more than just one or both feet contacting the ground the hurdle becomes legal.

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