Physics of Football

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Every Sunday afternoon in the fall, all across America, televisions, radios, and Internet broadcasts are tuned to the big football games. The sport of football has grown in popularity since the day it was invented, but not all of the views are good. The sport of football is viewed by many as a cruel and primitive sport, however every aspect within the sport of football is based in the field of physics.

To begin to understand the complexity that is the game of football one can start by looking at how the punter needs to know the laws of physics to kick far. A punter’s job is to execute a drop kick (holding the football out and dropping it, then kicking the ball in midair) so as to give the other team the worst field position possible. This goal is only achievable with a kick that propels the football very far both horizontally and vertically. The punter is in charge of three things at the time of the kick: the velocity, the angle of the kick, and the rotation on the ball. Velocity is the speed at which the ball is propelled from the punter’s foot. The angle at which the ball is kicked combined with the velocity determines the distance the ball will travel. A ball kicked at a steeper angle with high velocity will have more hang-time (amount of time the ball is in the air), but will not travel very far. However, a ball kicked at a shallow angle with a high velocity will travel far, but it will not have the hang-time that many players desire (a punt with a long hang-time allows the players to get to the punt returner easier). Lastly, the rotation a punter puts on a football greatly affects how far the punt will go. If the ball is punted end over end, it will have more air resistance, slowing it down resulting in a shorter punt. A spiraling punt breaks through the air decreasing air resistance allowing for a kick with more distance. These same aspects are the ones applied to a quarterback when throwing the football (except without the kicking).

One of...
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