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the physics of football

The Physics of Football

Lou Bloomfield

University of Virginia

September 24, 2005

five vignettes
Five Vignettes
  • The Fullback Scrambles Just Out of Reach
  • The Offensive Lineman Blocks the Rusher
  • The Defensive Back Tackles the Ball Carrier
  • The Quarterback Passes to the Receiver
  • The Kicker Boots the Ball
the fullback scrambles just out of reach
The Fullback ScramblesJust Out of Reach
  • Why is it easiest for the fullback to
    • stay motionless?
    • run steadily in a straight line?
  • Why does dodging take so much leg strength?
  • Why does the fullback lean as he dodges?
the offensive lineman blocks the rusher
The Offensive LinemanBlocks the Rusher
  • Why is a huge lineman so hard to move?
    • Is the lineman’s weight the issue?
    • If he wore roller skates, would he be easier to move?
  • Why does a running start help either player?
  • Why is padding so important to avoiding injury?
the defensive back tackles the ball carrier
The Defensive BackTackles the Ball Carrier
  • Why does the ball carrier
    • stay upright when hit at chest/stomach height?
    • flip backward when hit at shoulder height?
    • flip forward when hit around the legs?
the quarterback passes to the receiver
The Quarterback Passesto the Receiver
  • What distinguishes different types of passes?
    • Why does a screen pass stay low but travel fast?
    • Why does a long bomb arc high but travel slowly?
  • Why can’t a mere mortal be quarterback?
  • Why does a good receiver need soft hands?
  • Why is a smooth spiral so helpful?
the kicker boots the ball
The Kicker Boots the Ball
  • Why do different plays require different kicks?
    • How does a field goal kicker maximize distance?
    • How does a punter maximize time in the air?