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Arena football is a modified version of American football designed to be played in a basketball arena. The game is designed to be a fast-paced, high-scoring alternative to the outdoor game. There are many rules in arena football that are different from outdoor football, but the most notable difference is the smaller field. Arena football is played on a 50-yard field with 8-yard end zones, and the field is only as wide as a hockey rink.
The game is also known for the padded walls which encircle the field. The walls are especially popular because of the potential for players being knocked into the walls and because fans are seated directly behind the walls, often leaving them just a few feet from the action of a play. Arena football also features two huge rebound nets at each end of the field. The ball can be thrown or kicked off of these nets and remain live. The field-goal uprights are only 9 feet wide, increasing the likelihood of missed field goals - which can be returned after bouncing off the net.
Since the field is smaller, there are only eight players per team on the field at one time. Most players play both offense and defense, although every team has an "offensive specialist" and "defensive specialist" who play only one or the other. Offensive players are allowed to go in motion vertically, giving them a running start on pass routes and helping to increase scoring.
Scoring is basically the same as in the National Football League, as are most on-field rules. The timing is a bit different, as the clock continues to run throughout most of the game, then stops after every first down with less than a minute to play. There is also a 1-minute warning instead of a 2-minute warning. Punts are not allowed since field goals can be attempted from anywhere on the field - the longest possible attempt being about 64 yards - and missed field goals are returned rather than the ball being awarded at the spot of the kick.
Overtime is more similar to that of college football, but with some variations. In arena football, each team is given one offensive possession to score. If the teams remain tied, it becomes sudden death, with the first team to score winning.
The Arena Football League is the primary league, although some lesser leagues exist. The Arena Football League began play in 1987 with four teams. As of 2005, the league had grown to 18 teams and had increased its profile with celebrity owners like John Elway, Mike Ditka and Jon Bon Jovi. The league's championship game - the ArenaBowl - was moved to Las Vegas in 2005 after being held in host team cities for the first 19 years.
There's a greater chance of injury in arena football because players are more likely to be tackled into the walls and hurt.