Pan Am Handball

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Sport Overview

Fans who are new to handball will recognize elements of soccer, basketball and even lacrosse in a sport which is contested on a 40 metre by 20 metre floor by teams of seven players who pass and dribble a small ball with their hands. The game is physical and fast moving with goals often coming in rapid succession and players regularly sacrificing their bodies to create or disrupt scoring opportunities. With no stoppage of play after goals, teams usually counterattack quickly on their way to final scores that can easily see 50 goals or more in the final tally.

Handball was added to the Pan Am Games competition schedule in 1987. In Guadalajara in 2011, Argentina and Brazil tied for first in the medal tally with one gold and one silver. Chile and Dominican Republic tied for third with one bronze medal each.

Traditionally, handball has been dominated by European countries, but Pan Am nations — South American nations in particular — have been making great progress recently, with the Brazilian women’s team capturing its first World Championship in 2013.


Denmark, Germany and Sweden were the site of the sport’s development in the late 19th century. The sport grew in popularity in the 20th century as its first set of rules were established in 1917 and its governing body, the International Amateur Handball Federation, was founded.

How it works

Two teams of seven players square off against each other on a 40 metre x 20 metre (131 feet x 65.6 feet) court. Players pass and dribble a small ball with their hands in an effort to score goals on the opposing team. It is not uncommon to see 50 goals scored during one match in this fast, physical game.

A handball match is made up of two 30-minute periods. The team with the most goals wins.


To move the ball by bouncing it on the floor.

Also called a line player, an offensive player who plays mostly around the opponent’s goal line.

Red card
The colour of a card issued by the referee to signify that a player has been ejected.

Yellow card
A card displayed by the referee warning a player about an infraction committed.

Additional Information

Additional Information