Physics of Field Goal Kicking

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The Physics of Field Goal Kicking

Physics is involved in all of our daily activities. Most of the time, however, physics is overlooked and never acknowledged. It is important to understand different aspects of physics because physics tells us how and why certain events occur. By definition, physics is the search for laws that describe the most fundamental aspects of nature: matter, energy, force, motion, heat, light, and other phenomena. There are many different sectors of physics, but we will be focusing primarily on mechanical physics. Each step of the field goal kicking process involves physics, which we will explain.

The first step in the kicking process is the snap, in which the center snaps the football back seven yards to the holder. During this process the center exerts a force on the football, resulting in acceleration of the football. This is an application of Newton’s first law of motion, which implies that a force is required only to change the state of motion. The football starts from rest, and the center applies a net force on the ball, accelerating it and giving it a velocity. This net force must be greater than the total mass of the football. The amount of force exerted on the football is equal to the mass of the football, times the acceleration of the football—Newton’s second law of motion.

As the football is being snapped, the offensive linemen and defensive linemen are exerting forces on each other. According to Newton’s third law of motion, when one object exerts a force on a second object, the second exerts an equal and opposite force on the first. Now, lets say an offensive lineman pushes a defensive lineman back two yards, the offensive lineman would be doing work. The amount of this work would be the size of the force being applied times the two yards traveled (work=Fd). The time it takes for this process to take place is called power (work/time=power). Also, this is an example of an inelastic collision, which is one in which the...
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