All you Need to Know About Handball

If you want to learn how to play handball, in the following article, you'll find all the information you need to get to know this sport. Learn about it and give it a try!
All you Need to Know About Handball

Last update: 27 June, 2019

Handball is one of the most practiced team sports in the world. As the name suggests, we play this spectacular discipline using our hands only. If you don’t know a lot about this sport, read along. In the following article, we’ll share all you need to know about handball.

The origins of handball go back to medieval times, however, it was in 1906 when the rules of modern handball were first created in Denmark. It’s a team sport in which each team has seven players, six outfield players, and one goalkeeper. The ball is made from leather or synthetic material and it’s just the right size to fit into the player’s hands.

Basic concepts

The objective of the game is to score more points than the opponent. Matches are played during two 30 minute halves. There’s a 10-minute break between halves.

If the match ends with a tie on the scoreboard, then there will be a maximum of 2.5 minutes of extra time. If the tie persists, the game comes down to a penalty shootout.

The rules state that it’s forbidden to approach the opponent’s goal. In fact, there’s an area reserved for the goalkeeper and forbidden for the outfield players to enter. Throws are always taken from outside of the area. Players can advance by dribbling, but cannot take more than three steps without bouncing the ball.

As we mentioned earlier, there are seven outfield players. Each team consists of a goalkeeper, a midfielder, a pivot, two defenders and two strikers. 

Individually, each player plays a unique role, contributing to the benefit of the entire team. Used without having to inform the referee, each team has seven substitutes.


Handball competition

Handball rules

Knowing the rules of handball will allow you to have insights about the sport. Broadly speaking, these aspects are what differentiate this wonderful sport:

  • The teams are made up of seven players, a goalkeeper and six outfield players.
  • A maximum of 12 players can participate in the game for each team.
  • Substitutes may enter the game at any time, through the substitution area, as long as the player they’re replacing has left the court.
  • Players can touch the ball with any part of their bodies, above the knee.
  • When a player receives the ball, he/she may pass, keep possession or shoot at the goal.
  • The player in possession of the ball may only take three steps.
  • Only the goalkeeper can enter the goal area.
  • Goalkeepers may leave the goal area, but they cannot retain possession of the ball outside their zone.
  • It’s forbidden to keep the ball without making a recognizable attempt to attack and score.
  • Players can score a goal in any position, throw-in or free-throw.

Benefits of handball

Excellent for the body

Handball provides integral training. It’s an excellent sport to stay active and fit through accelerated exercise.

Both the defense and attack need to make a constant effort. Therefore, it’s an excellent exercise to improve agility, cardio, and flexibility. It can also improve upper body strength.

Women's handball

Team sport

Handball is a team sport. It promotes team spirit and enhances values such as commitment and companionship. It has important values which can’t be learned in individual sports.

Handball promotes socialization and allows for the development of many physical and mental qualities. It’s without a doubt an excellent way to make new friends.

Ideal for all ages

All ages can practice handball. In fact, the rules are simple and the pleasures of the game are immediate. Its playful reach makes it one of the most popular sports in the world.

If you’ve had the chance to watch a game, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a contact sport that’s played at high speeds. That’s why, among other things, it’s a perfect cardiovascular activity. Will you dare to give it a try?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

    • Hornstrup, T., Wikman, J. M., Fristrup, B., Póvoas, S., Helge, E. W., Nielsen, S. H., … Krustrup, P. (2018). Fitness and health benefits of team handball training for young untrained women—A cross-disciplinary RCT on physiological adaptations and motivational aspects. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 7(2), 139–148.
    • Boshnjaku, A., Dimauro, I., Krasniqi, E., Grazioli, E., Tschan, H., Migliaccio, S., … Caporossi, D. (2016). Effect of sport training on forearm bone sites in female handball and soccer players. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 56(12), 1503–1510. Retrieved from

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.