A penalty called when a defensive player makes a tackle that leads with the crown of his helmet into the offensive player. If the initial contact occurs at the top of the helmet, the tackle is illegal. Spearing is a 15-yard penalty against the defense and an automatic first down. The penalty is considered a player safety issue, as hits that lead with the top of the helmet often result in injuries.
Spearing is one of the penalties that has been added in recent years to increase player safety. The intent was to decrease the number of violent downfield hits. Spearing is a particularly significant penalty as it tends to occur downfield against defenseless offensive players after a catch has been made. Ironically, spearing hits can also put the defensive player at risk of neck injury due to the angle of contact. Spearing only applies to hits where the defensive player leads with the crown of his helmet. Defensive players are taught to lead with their shoulders to limit the number of penalties.