What happens when a football player tackles his opponent? Physicists have developed equations that tell us what happens when two objects collide. They can use the same equations to explain what happens when a player takes a hit and to determine how damaging that hit will be.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster
When one football player hits another, the force of the hit depends on two variables: the mass of the players and their speeds. A heavier player hits with more force than a lighter player, and a faster player hits with more force than a slower player. Both the tackler and the person tackled can be injured by the forces in a collision. Scientists say that a hard hit can be worse than anything a fighter pilot experiences in a typical high-speed flight. Even a medium hit to the helmet is stronger than the impact of a car crash at 30 miles per hour. Protective gear helps spread the force of the collision across a player’s body, thereby reducing the risk of injury. Players also learn ways to tackle and to fall in order to best protect their bodies from these extreme forces.
Many scientists fear that football has become more dangerous. Today’s players are bigger, stronger, and faster than the stars of just a few decades ago. Meanwhile, doctors have noticed many chronic injuries in former NFL players that are left over from their careers. They may even suffer from brain damage after years in the sport. Some researchers are trying to create better gear and playing surfaces to better protect football players from the danger of collisions.
Visit the links below to learn more about the prevalence of brain injuries among NFL players.