Physics,calculus fastball?
How sports and science coexist

By Rory Sharrock


When it comes to sports, most fans rarely think about the scientific components involved in each display of athleticism.

However, the worlds of science and sports have always coexisted, combining natural-born talent with mass and motion to produce superior results.

Every split-fingered fastball, par-5 tee shot, Olympic high jump and figure skating pirouette possesses elements of physics that determines the quality of the each specified goal.

While perhaps in the past, applying scientific research to sports was often ignored, for the modern-day athlete, having a basic knowledge of physics can give an individual an advantage in learning how to maximize their performance in competition.

"I think physics can have a large effect. As our world becomes technologically advanced and science savvy, you see these issues being looked into," said Joshua M. Dyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics at Clayton State University.

Just as the rules and regulations vary for each sport, the scientific elements change to coincide with the mass and motion of the specific object.

In baseball or softball, players love to find a pitch in their zone and hit it on the "sweet spot" of the bat. Once the player connects in this spot, which is also called the 'center of percussion', the energy transfer from bat-to-ball can produce optimum results, turning singles into gapping doubles and extra base hits into long-distance home runs.

This is one of many reasons why pitchers are taught to throw up and in from the mound to minimize the effect of a batted ball.

However, a late swing can cause a painful reverberation in the player's hands, which is often the case with local high school athletes who use aluminum bats.

During football season, physics can be seen inside the huddle, playing a significant role on every snap.

On the gridiron, the 'moment of inertia' dresses up in the form of an offensive lineman or linebacker rushing the quarterback. According to physicists, the moment of inertia is an object's resistance to rotation or the physical value of every object.

"The heavier or more mass an object has, the more difficult it is to move an object around," Dyer said.

For this very reason, Southern Crescent, from North Clayton to Ola, places finding linemen between 250 and 300 pounds as a top priority on the roster wish list.

As today's athletes continue to grow stronger and faster, training facilities and technology has also increased to keep pace with their ever-changing world.

With these changes, players and coaches are beginning to take extra steps to learn about physics and the scientific ingredients of their respective sports.

From their studies, athletes will be able to further utilize their skills and cook up a winning recipe for continual success.