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Physics and Football

Updated July 18, 2021
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Physics and Football essay

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It was a rather cold Sunday but, not any other Sunday it was Superbowl Sunday. I have been waiting for this day to come all season long. My team, the Los Angles Chargers was gliding through the season 16-0 all season and today is our day to take home the Lombardi Trophy. I suggest to you there is something you should know about today’s big game. Unmistakably, not all football fans are physicists however did you know like it or not football actually contains physics. In order to learn more about American football, it can be deciphered by gaining knowledge about, projectile motion, Newton’s 1st law, and fluid friction.

Did you know when a football soars through the air, the football experiences a type of friction called fluid friction? Who would have thought? Fluid friction occurs when an object resists motion through a fluid, gas, and even air particles. Fluid friction occurs when the football is thrown and it passes through air particles, causing the ball to decelerate while still giving players enough time to get into position to catch the football (“Fluid Friction: Typ…”). When football players are running down the field, either to make a gruesome tackle or to get their hands on the football, the players also experience fluid friction. This happens to be because when players are running down the field they pass through air particles that cause fluid friction. In the situation of playing football most of the time football players are experiencing fluid friction. Without fluid friction, the movement of the ball and players wouldn’t be the same.

When the quarterback has the football in his hands ready to throw to the receiver the quarterback encounters Newton’s first law. Newton’s first law states that “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force”(Lucas). A football player more specifically a quarterback experiences Newton’s first law when about to throw a ball. When the quarterback has just been snapped the ball he begins to hold the ball until he wants to throw the ball to the designated receiver. When the quarterback has his target receiver he begins to put a forward force on the ball and then begins to let go, the ball begins to move forward.

Another way how a football player can encounter Newton’s first law when playing football is when a non-moving player like a blocker is holding a screen then gets tackled out of know where. So, imagine this the running back is getting a run and you are not trying to move so you can contain the defense. But this block can’t hold up for long then suddenly a linemen gets free from the rest of the blockers and starts to charge at you so he can get a step closer to the running back. That lineman collides with you causing you to get thrown to the ground. This causes an unbalanced force acting on the defender. This unbalanced force causes the player to fly backward. When either watching or playing football you’ll be able to notice Newton’s first law. Trust me it won’t be hard.

Imagine there are 7 seconds left and your team has used their last and final timeout, you are only up three points but with a good punt, you can get great field positioning to defend against losing the entire Superbowl. All you need is your punter to take it home. When playing football, punters use projectile motion so they can get their punt spot on. “Projectile motion is the predicted path of an object or a particle before the object is launched out toward a certain target”(Projectile Motion &…).After the ball has been launched from the player’s foot the ball “will only be affected by the launching motion, the speed, and the acceleration that is affected by gravity” (Projectile Motion &…).

Once the punter has released the football into the air, the motion of the ball quickly turns into a projectile path. The ball then begins to follow a predicted route called a parabola (or parabolic arch). As the football glides through the air it starts to take shape of a parabola, there are two main components of velocity affecting the ball(Projectile Motion &…). The ball begins to have a horizontal component, the speed that it’s traveling along the ground, a vertical component, the speed it’s actually moving vertically. These two velocity components, the vertical and horizontal, can be represented as “vectors”.

A vector is basically an arrow in two dimensions that describe some kind of physical quantity. In this case, vectors show the physical quantities of speed and direction. The greater the speed, the longer the velocity vector. As gravity tries to slow the ball down, the vertical vector gets smaller. Gravity eventually causes the football to stop rising and reach the top of its trajectory( National Science Foundation). After a little while of having no up or down speed then gravity begins to pull the ball back down to earth. As it gains more speed, the vertical velocity vector now points downwards.

As the ball begins to come back to the ground, the vertical component of velocity is in the opposite direction and the horizontal component is still the same. The ball’s altitude decreases as it reaches the ground. Projectile motion can also be used when kicking a field goal pretty similar to kicking a punt. If a football player wants to kick a perfect a goal he needs to kick the ball at a certain angle. If the kicker wants to kick the football at its maximum potential he would need to launch the ball at a precise 45-degree angle. This specific angle gives the ball its maximum potential range. Knowing projectile motion and how it works is important because it can give you an advantage in a game of football.

Now by being able to explore, projectile motion, Newton’s 1st law, and fluid friction we are able to fully understand how much physics affects the game of football in a Jurassic way. The next time I see my favorite players on the field I will be able to understand how football players are able to win a football game while using physics. Now I start to wonder maybe that’s why Payton Manning and Lawrence Taylor were able to play the game of football so well, they were just able to understand and learn the physics and science behind the game of football.

Work Cited

  1. Admin. “Fluid Friction : Types of Friction With Detailed Explanation & Example: BYJU’S.” BYJUS, Byju’s, 22 Aug. 2019, byjus.com/physics/fluid-friction/.
  2. Cortez, David. “Friction.” Football, 13 Feb. 2016, footballlion.weebly.com/friction.html.
  3. Khan, Salman. “Football Physics.” Khan Academy, 2016, www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/49ers-steam/science-behind-the-game/force-and-motion/a/football-physics.
  4. Lucas, Jim. “Inertia & Newton’s First Law of Motion.” Livescience.Com, 27 Sept. 2017, www.livescience.com/46559-newton-first-law.html.
  5. ‌ NFL, National Science Foundation. “Projectile Motion & Parabolas – Science of NFL Football.” YouTube, 22 Jan. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB4ws7RoA3M. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.
Physics and Football essay

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