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Football Removal of the Helmet Penalty

Football Removal of the Helmet Penalty

Removing your helmet during a game of football can be costly. This penalty is most often called during celebrations after touchdowns. Players are not allowed to celebrate without a helmet on, and they also are not allowed to take their helmet off on the field on purpose. This penalty is in place to keep the game running smoothly and fairly.


A player is not allowed to remove their helmet during a celebration in the endzone or other demonstration while on the field. This includes confrontations with officials, teammates, opponents, or members of either sideline. This rule coincides with the accidental removal of the helmet during a play, where a player is required to sit out for the next play.

Taking your helmet off is acceptable once you reach your own sideline and are out of the field of play. The rule is in place because you have no reason to remove your helmet unless you need to come off the field, which in case you can and then later return to play. This allows the game to keep moving forward without any delays or distractions on the field.

This rule may not be enforced on game winning plays since the game is deemed over after the score. This is not an excuse to take off your helmet and possibly throw it, which can be dangerous as the helmet is made of a hard material. This penalty is not called that often and most often occurs in the endzone during a celebration. The NFL and NCAA are notorious for not allowing big scale celebrations after a team scores. The NFL has recently allowed celebrations to come back, but taking the helmet off is still illegal.

While there is no real threat of injury to taking off the helmet, in rare cases players can get hurt. This can happen when players are celebrating and one player does not have their helmet on. They can then collide heads with a teammate who has a helmet on. When confronting an opponent, players also might get hurt if a fight breaks out on the field.


This penalty falls under the category of unsportsmanlike conduct. Receiving two of these fouls in the same game will result in a disqualification. An unsportsmanlike penalty will cost your team 15 yards in the NFL and NCAA.

Removal of the Helmet15 yards15 yardsN/AN/AN/A

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal removal of the helmet

The signal for the illegal removal of the helmet is the same signal for all other unsportsmanlike penalties. The referee will extend both arms out similarly to the incomplete pass signal. Instead of crossing his arms to signal an incomplete pass, he will stay in this position. He will also point with one arm to the side of the offending team.


  • Taking the helmet off after a touchdown is scored
  • Taking the helmet off before leaving the field of play

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