Aerodynamics in Sports

When a ball is hit, thrown, or kicked in sports, the ball’s trajectory can rapidly change direction.In baseball, this phenomenon is the strategy behind curve ball pitches; in golf, it is responsible for slicing or hooking a ball driven off a tee; and in soccer, the ball can be “bent” during a free kick to outmaneuver the goalie. Cricket and tennis are
other sports in which the ball can curve during play. In each case, the ball’s trajectory depends on its complex interaction with the surrounding air and on the amount of spin imparted to the ball as it is thrown, hit, or kicked. During flight, a ball is subjected to lift and drag forces and to a sideways force commonly known as the Magnus effect and related to the ball’s spin. As any ball spins, a thin layer of air is dragged alongside in rotation because of the air’s viscosity. The roughness of the ball’s surface, as well as seams and laces on the ball, are also important factors in causing air to rotate with the ball. On the side of the ball with rotation and air flow acting in the same direction, the air’s speed increases, and the pressure drops following Bernoulli’s principle.On the ball’s other side, the rotation and airflow act in opposite directions, and the pressure is correspondingly higher. The imbalance in pressure between the ball’s two sides produces a sideways force that causes the ball’s trajectory to curve. This principle is used in the design of a wide range of sports equipment, including golf clubs and soccer cleats that effectively place a spin on golf and soccer balls, respectively, upon impact.Understanding the impact of flow, drag, buoyancy, and lift also helps engineers develop new technologies to improve the performance of athletes, including advanced materials for Olympic swimsuits; innovative bike, wheel, and helmet designs for cyclists and triathletes; and aerodynamic bodysuits for speed skaters.

Aerodynamics in Sports

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Basic Mechanical Engineering is a small endeavor for the mechanical engineering students and fresh graduates. All the articles are written by mechanical "rocking" engineers \m/

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