Do You Have to Replace Players Who Foul Out of Basketball Games?

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Two

When a basketball player exceeds the limit on allowable personal fouls, the player fouls out of the game. In most cases, a player who fouls out may not return to the contest, and must be replaced. Indeed, there is no reason not to replace a player who fouls out, unless a team has no remaining eligible players. Amateur and professional rules differ when dealing with a situation in which no substitutes remain when a player fouls out.

Professional Basketball

NBA and WNBA players foul out of a game when they commit their sixth personal foul. Players who foul out must be replaced, unless no substitutes remain on the bench. In that case the player remains in the game, although he’s assessed a personal and team foul. Additionally, his team is charged with a technical foul. If the player commits any further fouls, he’s charged with a personal foul and his team is hit with another technical. Any subsequent player on that team who fouls out is treated in the same manner.

International Rules

Under international rules established by the International Basketball Federation, players foul out when they commit their fifth personal foul. Rule 4.2.2 states that five players “shall be on the playing court,” while Rule 40.1 instructs teams to replace fouled-out players within 30 seconds. If a team runs out of substitutes, fouled-out players are not replaced and play continues. If further players foul out, play continues until a team is down to its last eligible player, in which case it forfeits the game, pursuant to Rule 21.1.

NCAA Rules

In college basketball, a player fouls out when she’s committed her fifth personal foul. Rule 3, Section 1 of the NCAA’s basketball rules book states that each team “shall consist of five players.” Therefore, players who foul out must be replaced, as long as new players are available. If a team is down to its last five players, however, and one of the five fouls out, she is not replaced. Indeed, the game will continue until the team is down to a single player, in which case the team must forfeit the game unless the referee believes that the team can still win the contest.

High School and AAU Basketball

In the United States, each state may adopt its own rules for basketball, or any other sport. However, states typically follow the guidelines set by the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations (NFHS). Under NFHS basketball rules, high school players foul out when they commit their fifth personal foul, and must be replaced if substitutes are available. Amateur Athletic Union tournaments also follow NFHS rules.