The physics of a football tackle

The physics of a football tackle

02/05/17

“How do the laws of physics affect football tackles?”

Because of the excitement for the super bowl stateside, a fan recently asked for an article about the science of football.

If you are from the United States, then you have probably seen or heard about a game called “football” where people divided onto two teams will fight each other for control of a prolate spheroid shaped ball using tackles. However, have you ever wondered about how one can make an optimal tackle? Well, it turns out that all you need is a rudimentary knowledge of physics to find out.

Every object in the universe has a property called a center of mass, or the location of the mean position of matter in a body. When a force is applied on an object which does not go through the center of mass, a torque will be induced, causing a rotation on said body. So now let’s put this theoretical framework into practice. The average human male has their center of mass located slightly above the navel. When one football player tackles another in this area, the player will simply be moved in the direction of the tackle. But if the player were to give a tackle below this zone, a torque would be induced that would completely throw off the player! Luckily, professional coaches have taken note of this, and use this scientific knowledge to advise linemen to stay close to ground while running, making it far more prohibitive for a disabling torque to be thrust upon them!

Science always shows up in the most marvelous ways in our everyday life, and it goes to show that a small bit of knowledge of it can go a long way.