Medical Redshirt Rules for Basketball
College athletes, including basketball players, have four school years of eligibility to play a varsity sport, which they may complete during a 5-year span. It’s not uncommon for an athlete to take what’s called a “redshirt” year as a freshman, in which the athlete practices with the team but doesn’t compete in any games. He can then compete during the next four years. Additionally, if an athlete competes in some games but misses a substantial part of the team’s season due to injury or illness, he can petition the NCAA for a hardship waiver -- commonly known as a “medical redshirt” -- meaning that his abbreviated season doesn’t count against his four years of eligibility.
To qualify for a medical redshirt, a basketball player must sustain an “incapacitating injury or illness.” The injury or illness does not have to be related to basketball, but must take place after the first day of classes in the athlete’s senior year of high school. To gain a medical redshirt for a specific season, the athlete’s illness or injury must occur before the first game of the second half of the team’s schedule. If the team plays an odd number of games, the exact midseason contest is considered part of the second half. For example, if a basketball team plays 25 games, the injury or illness must occur before the start of the team’s 13th game. Games played in postseason tournaments, such as a conference tournament or the NCAA or NIT tournaments, count among the team’s total games played.
To gain a medical redshirt, the athlete cannot compete in more than 30 percent of her team’s games within a season, not counting contests officially designated as scrimmages or exhibition games. When such computations are made, fractions are rounded up. For example, if a team plays 27 games, the exact 30 percent mark is 8.1. For the purposes of medical redshirt eligibility, therefore, the player may compete in nine games and still be eligible for a medical redshirt.
In cases where a player takes a standard, nonmedical redshirt season, then later is granted a medical redshirt, the player has six years in which to complete his four seasons of basketball eligibility.
The administration of a medical redshirt request is handled by a school’s conference. If the school is not a member of an athletic conference, the NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement administers the hardship request. The committee also reviews appeals of medical redshirt requests that are denied at the conference level. Medical documentation is required with every medical redshirt request.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.