Why Is American Football Played With Hands?




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Have you ever wondered why American football is played predominantly with the use of hands? In this article, you will learn the historical reasons behind this unique aspect of the game. We will explore the origins of American football, its rules and tactics, as well as the equipment used by players. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of why American football has become such a beloved sport, with its own distinct features that set it apart from other forms of football around the world.

Why Is American Football Played With Hands?

Origin of American Football

American football, as we know it today, has evolved from the game of rugby. In the mid-19th century, a group of British and American students began playing a modified version of rugby at universities such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. This early form of American football primarily involved kicking and running with the ball.

Evolution from Rugby to American Football

Throughout the late 1800s, American football started to develop its own unique set of rules, differentiating it from rugby. One major difference was the inclusion of a line of scrimmage, which allowed teams to set up their offensive plays. Additionally, the forward pass was eventually introduced, allowing players to throw the ball downfield.

Another significant evolution was the introduction of downs. In rugby, a team can retain possession of the ball until they commit a turnover. In American football, however, each team has four downs to advance the ball ten yards. If they fail to do so, possession of the ball is turned over to the opposing team.

Influence of Other Sports

While rugby played a major role in the formation of American football, other sports also influenced its development. For instance, elements of soccer and even Native American games such as lacrosse were incorporated into the rules. The use of a round ball in early iterations of American football is believed to have been influenced by soccer.

Rules and Objectives of American Football

Overview of the Game

American football is a sport played between two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field. The objective of the game is to score points by advancing the ball into the opposing team’s end zone. The team with the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner.

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Scoring System and the Importance of Touchdowns

In American football, there are several ways to score points. The most significant is through a touchdown, which is worth six points. A touchdown is scored when a player successfully carries the ball into the opposing team’s end zone or catches a pass in the end zone. The team also has the opportunity to earn an additional point by kicking the ball through the goalposts after a touchdown or by attempting a two-point conversion.

Other scoring methods include field goals, which are worth three points, and extra points, which are worth one point and can be earned after a touchdown. Additionally, a safety is awarded when the defense tackles an offensive player in their own end zone, resulting in two points for the defense.

Role of the Quarterback and Other Positions

The quarterback is often regarded as the most important player on the field. They are responsible for leading the offensive team and making decisions on where to throw the ball. The quarterback receives the snap from the center and then either hands off the ball to a running back or throws it to a receiver.

Other key positions in American football include the wide receiver, running back, offensive lineman, and linebacker. Each position plays a distinct role in both the offense and defense of a team. For example, wide receivers are primarily responsible for catching passes, while linebackers focus on stopping the opposing team’s running plays.

Contrast with Other Football Sports

Differences between American Football and Soccer

American football and soccer, or association football, are two distinct sports with different rules and objectives. One key difference is the use of hands. In soccer, players primarily use their feet to control and manipulate the ball, while in American football, hands are crucial for catching, throwing, and carrying the ball.

Another difference lies in the size of the playing field. Soccer is typically played on a much larger field, while American football games are contained within a smaller, rectangular field. The use of protective equipment, such as helmets and shoulder pads, is also unique to American football.

Comparison with Canadian Football

Canadian football is closely related to American football, but there are a few notable differences between the two. In Canadian football, the field is longer and wider, and teams have three downs instead of four to advance the ball. The end zones are also deeper, and there are twelve players on the field for each team instead of eleven.

History and Evolution of American Football

Early Forms of American Football

Before American football became a formalized sport, various versions of the game were played across the United States. These early forms of American football varied in rules and playing style, but they all shared a common goal of advancing the ball into the opponent’s territory.

One particular version of the game, known as “mob football,” was played in various towns and cities during the 18th and 19th centuries. These games were often chaotic and lacked structured rules, but they laid the foundation for the organized game we know today.

Development of the National Football League (NFL)

The National Football League (NFL) was founded in 1920 and has since become the premier professional American football league. The league initially consisted of ten teams, which have now grown to 32 teams and is divided into two conferences: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC).

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The NFL has played a significant role in popularizing American football and making it one of the most-watched sports in the United States. The league’s annual championship game, known as the Super Bowl, has become a cultural phenomenon and attracts millions of viewers worldwide.

Why Is American Football Played With Hands?

Importance of Hands in American Football

Use of Hands for Passing and Catching the Ball

In American football, hands play a vital role in both offense and defense. The quarterback relies on their hands to accurately throw the ball to their intended target, and receivers depend on their hands to catch the ball and gain yards for their team.

On the defensive side, hands are used for interceptions and pass deflections. Defensive players often try to disrupt the passing game by getting their hands up to disrupt the quarterback’s vision or by swatting the ball out of the air.

Strategies and Techniques Involving Handwork

Handwork is an essential aspect of playing American football. Players spend hours practicing various techniques to improve their hand speed, strength, and coordination. Techniques such as hand jabs, swim moves, and rip moves are used to evade blockers, shed tackles, and make plays on the ball.

Defensive linemen, in particular, rely heavily on handwork to engage with offensive linemen and use leverage to disrupt the play. Hand placement and hand fighting are crucial elements of the game that help players gain an advantage over their opponents.

Equipment Used in American Football

Introduction to Helmets, Shoulder Pads, and Other Protective Gear

American football is a physical sport, and players wear a variety of protective gear to reduce the risk of injury. Helmets are worn to protect the head from impacts, and shoulder pads are used to absorb and distribute the force of collisions.

Other protective gear includes knee and thigh pads, hip pads, and mouthguards. These items provide additional protection to vulnerable areas and help minimize the risk of injuries while playing the sport.

Significance of Gloves for Better Grip

One piece of equipment that has gained popularity in recent years is gloves. Gloves provide players with a better grip on the ball, especially in adverse weather conditions. They enhance a player’s ability to catch and control the ball, giving them a competitive edge on the field.

Gloves are particularly useful for receivers and defensive backs, who often need to make acrobatic catches or interceptions. The improved grip offered by gloves allows players to make catches that would otherwise be difficult or impossible.

Why Is American Football Played With Hands?

Famous American Football Players

Pioneers and Legends of the Sport

American football has seen many pioneers and legends who have shaped the sport and left a lasting impact. Names like Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, and Vince Lombardi are synonymous with the history and success of American football.

These individuals not only excelled on the field but also helped to popularize the sport and establish its traditions. Their contributions to the game have been commemorated in various ways, including hall of fame inductions and statues.

Notable Quarterbacks, Linebackers, and Other Iconic Players

In addition to the pioneers and legends, American football has witnessed the rise of numerous iconic players in different positions. Quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning have become household names due to their exceptional play and numerous accolades.

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Linebackers like Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis, and Dick Butkus have been recognized for their hard-hitting and dominant performances. These players have left a lasting legacy in the sport, and their achievements continue to inspire future generations of players.

Tactics and Strategies in American Football

Offensive and Defensive Plays

American football is a game of strategy, with teams employing various offensive and defensive plays to outsmart their opponents. Offensive plays are designed to move the ball down the field and ultimately score points, while defensive plays aim to stop the opposing team from advancing and force turnovers.

Coaches and players spend countless hours studying film, analyzing opponents’ tendencies, and creating game plans to exploit weaknesses. Common offensive plays include the shotgun formation, play-action passes, and the option play. On defense, players employ different formations such as the 4-3 or 3-4 defense to counter the offense’s strategies.

Importance of Teamwork and Coordination

One of the key aspects of American football is the importance of teamwork and coordination. Each player on the field has a specific role and responsibility, and success is often dependent on how well players work together. From executing a precise passing route to blocking for a running back, every player must fulfill their role to contribute to the team’s success.

Coaches emphasize the need for players to trust and rely on each other, fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie within the team. The ability to communicate effectively and make split-second decisions as a unit is crucial in the fast-paced and physical nature of the sport.

The Super Bowl and Playoffs

History and Significance of the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the championship game of the NFL and is one of the most-watched sporting events in the United States. It originated from the merger of the NFL and its rival league, the American Football League (AFL), in 1970.

The Super Bowl has transcended the realm of sports and become a cultural phenomenon, attracting millions of viewers worldwide each year. It showcases the best teams from the AFC and NFC, who compete for the prestigious Vince Lombardi Trophy and the title of Super Bowl champions.

Format and Importance of Playoffs in American Football

Before teams can advance to the Super Bowl, they must navigate through the playoffs. The playoffs consist of a series of elimination games, starting with the wildcard round, followed by the divisional round, conference championships, and ultimately the Super Bowl.

The playoffs are a showcase of the best teams from each conference, and only the most successful and talented teams make it to the postseason. It is during the playoffs that individual performances and team strategies are put to the test, and the stakes are heightened as teams vie for a chance to compete in the Super Bowl.


Understanding the unique aspects of American football, including its origins, rules, and strategies, is crucial for both beginners and seasoned fans. The use of hands in American football sets it apart from other football sports and adds an intriguing element to the game.

The evolution of American football from rugby, as well as its incorporation of elements from other sports, has resulted in a distinctive sport with its own set of rules and gameplay. The NFL, with its rich history and iconic players, has played a significant role in popularizing the sport and making it a beloved American pastime.

From the importance of hands in passing and catching the ball to the strategic use of equipment and tactical plays, American football is a sport that requires skill, teamwork, and coordination. The Super Bowl, the pinnacle of the NFL season, brings together the best teams and showcases the excitement and drama that American football has to offer.

Whether you’re a fan of the Super Bowl champions or a casual observer, American football continues to captivate and inspire millions with its athleticism, tradition, and unwavering spirit. So the next time you watch a game, take a moment to appreciate the unique aspects of the sport and the role that hands play in its success.

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