What are the types of holding penalties?

There are several different "holding" penalties. Here's what you need to know:


You'll often hear this refereed to as "impeding" the runner.

Before the ball is thrown

  • Holding on an eligible receiver before the pass is thrown is a 5 yard penalty, with an automatic first down.
  • Anytime the ball carrier is behind the line of scrimmage and eligible to throw a pass, if held by the defense, it is a 5 yard penalty (10 yards for men's league) from the previous line of scrimmage, and the down is replayed.
    • But why? Because the ball carrier was still eligible to throw a pass, the offense isn't penalized a down for the defensive penalty

After the ball is caught, or advanced downfield

  • Holding a runner while trying to pull the flag is a 5 yard (10 yards for men's league) penalty added to the end of the run.
  • If it was 4th down and the yardage gained plus the penalty yardage doesn't give the offense a first down, an additional down will be played after the penalty is assessed.
    • Basically, if you hold to prevent a score or a first down on 4th down, no matter what, the offense will get another play!


Offensive holding is usually called in men's league, and occurs when an offensive lineman holds a rusher. This doesn't mean that "holding on to" the shirt is a holding penalty -- in order to be a penalty, the rusher has to be outside of the offensive's frame, or otherwise won an angle to the quarterback.

If this occurs, it is a 10 yard penalty from the previous spot, and the down is replayed.