The Physics of Football
The crowd is cheering as the quarter back from the Chicago Bears throws the football 25 yards to the star wide receiver. As the wide receiver catches the football, he starts off on a mad dash to make a touch down. During his run for the touchdown, he does not see his opponent from the Dallas Cowboys sneaking up on him to stop his success. The wide receiver from the Chicago Bears is tackled by his opponent and prevents him from his victory. While watching this fascinating and suspenseful moment, one would not think that there is more to football than fun and excitement. Football is more than entertainment and a sport, it is an in depth lesson on physics. After learning about physics, a student will not be able to watch football without thinking about all the concepts of physics that are involved.
Timothy Gay, a professor of physics at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL) said, “Football is a manifestation of physics and it’s something people can relate to. It’s physics in action.” (The American Physical Society) Professor Gay has been using football to teach physics to his students at UNL, this has helped the students understand and love science.
There are many aspects of football that involves physics. When the ball is thrown, or kicked physics is being used. The players are using physics when they run down the field. Physics are also used when a person is tackled. The equipment that the players use to prevent injuries also uses physics. These simple but important parts of the game of football could not happen without physics.
When a quarterback throws the ball through the air, there are many things that he needs to do. For example, he needs to consider the speed at which he must throw the ball to get it to his teammate, he must also consider the distance that it must travel, and the wind speed and gravity must also be figured into how he will throw the ball. As the football travels through the air, it follows a parabolic path because it is thrown up in a vertical direction, and gravity pulls down on it. (Freudenrich 2) This is also known as projectile motion. “Projectile motion…occurs near the surface of the Earth when the only force acting on the object is that of gravity” (Kirkpatrick and Wheeler 70). As the ball travels down the parabolic path, the football accelerates until it hits the ground.
When the kicker punts the football, the kicker must consider many factors also. He must consider the speed of the football, the angle he kicks it, and the rotation. “The angle of a kick helps determine how far it will travel” (Freudenrich 2). The speed and distance or velocity of the football will be affected by the gravity, it will also be determined by the force that the football is kicked. The rotation of the ball will also affect the speed and distance of the kick. If the kicker kicks the ball so that it rotates end over end it will have more air drag (causing it to slow down), but if it is kicked in...