What is a fumble in football? June 15, 2023 – Posted in: Featured Articles – Tags:

Turnovers are significant game-changing occurrences. The offense can be moving down the field in search of scoring opportunities one minute. They might make a mistake in the following play that completely changes the course of the game.

The defense seizes control of the ball, gains total control of the game’s momentum, and could even be able to score a touchdown. In football, a turnover can occur in one of three ways: by an interception, a turnover on downs, or a fumble. In the paragraphs that follow, we’ll go over what a fumble in football is, how it’s defined, and what happens when it happens.

What does a Football Fumble mean?

One of the three ways a turnover can happen in a football game is a fumble. A fumble typically happens when an offensive player is sprinting while carrying the football. Fumbles can, however, also happen after the defense seizes control of the ball or during special teams’ plays like kickoff and punt returns. Therefore, for a fumble to happen, one player must be in total possession of the football before abruptly losing it.

Examples of fumbles:

  • The quarterback is trying to find someone to pass to when he either loses control of the ball or has a defender knock it out of his hands.
  • When a running back is moving with the ball, it may slip from his grasp or be knocked out of his hands by a defender.
  • It can also occur after a receiver makes a successful grab and loses possession of the ball while attempting to gain ground with it.

There are a few variables that affect whether a fumble happens or not: 

Factor 1: Ownership

Whether a player had complete possession of the ball is the first consideration. On passing plays, possession disputes are frequent. The receiver is regarded as a runner after it is established that he has possession of a pass. It is not a fumble but an incomplete pass if he never had full possession until the ball was knocked free.

Factor 2: Not “Down”

Second, the player is not deemed to be “down by contact.” A ball carrier is deemed tackled, or down by contact, if his knees or elbows touch the ground during a tackle before the ball is knocked loose. It is a fumble, nevertheless, if the ball begins to budge before it has been judged that the player is down or outside the bounds.

Factor 3: throwing motion

A third consideration for quarterbacks is whether they were advancing their arms when they threw the ball. A fumble occurs when the player loses control of the ball as their arm is returning. It is regarded as an incomplete pass rather than a fumble if their arm is moving forward in a throwing motion when the ball is knocked loose.

What transpires after a Fumble?

On a live ball

First, be aware that following a fumble, the football is deemed to be “live,” and either team is free to attempt to recover it and regain possession. Because of this, if a fumble occurs, players from both sides would rush to either pounce on the ball or attempt to pick it up and run with it. If a player recovers the fumble while still inside the line of scrimmage, that team gains control of the ball. The play continues if the fumbled player recovers it without being tackled or going down. The offensive team will keep possession of the ball if they seize it, and the next play will begin where they recovered it. Upon a first-and-10 from such a position, their offense will take control if it is the defense.

Out of Bounds Fumble

The play is deemed over if the ball leaves the pitch before someone obtains possession. It won’t be a turnover because the offense will maintain control of the ball. As you cannot gain yardage from a fumble, the next play will begin at the spot where the fumble occurred rather than where the ball went out of bounds.

Out of the End Zone Fumble

If a ball is fumbled out of the end zone, the previous regulation is the only one that applies. It counts as a turnover and a touchback if the offense fumbles the ball and it exits the end zone out of bounds. The ball will be passed to the defense and moved to the 25-yard line.


Fumbles can be pivotal plays in a game. When they happen, there are mad dashes to get the ball before the opposing team does or before it goes out of bounds.

To prevent fumbling, ball carriers must always make sure to hold the football tightly. When rushing through congested traffic, they can accomplish this by wrapping the ball with one arm on top and one on bottom. To further protect themselves from defenders attempting to take the ball away, ball carriers must hold the ball tightly to their bodies as well.

Fumble in Football FAQs

1) What is a football fumble example?

Examples of fumbles include situations where the quarterback is looking for a receiver and either loses the ball or has a defender knock it out of his hands. When a running back is moving with the ball, it may slip from his grasp or be knocked out of his hands by a defender.

2) In football, how do you fumble a ball?

In gridiron football, a fumble happens when a player in possession of the ball loses it before being tackled, scoring, or leaving the field of play. According to the rules, any action other than passing, kicking, punting, or successfully giving the ball to another player causes them to lose possession of it.

3) What distinguishes an incomplete pass from a fumble?

It is an incomplete pass if the ball is knocked loose before being tucked under the arm or secured by the body. It is a fumble if the ball is still loose after being secured.

4) How many points are lost in a fumble?

10 receiving yards are worth 1 point. A receiving or rushing touchdown is worth six points. A passing touchdown is worth 4 points. a loss of two points for each thrown interception or fumble.