Sports Science= Cool

I just watched an interesting show on FoxSports NorthWest, called "Sports Science" and even though I had zero intention of sitting down to watch it, it managed to suck me in anyway.

Because I'm a geek.

I'm so geeky that I even took notes, thinking that some of the information was pretty interesting.

Regarding the show itself, overall it is a pretty sharp looking show, with a lot of tech goodies going on all the time, but with only so-so production bringing it all together.  And the head cheerleader for the scientists acts and looks a lot like a real life version of the boss from the comedy show "The Office."  Definitely my favorite part was the super slo-mo video of the athletes, just because it is neat to see all the little movements that go into things like a pitch or an NFL throw.  They also did some movement tracking CGI, which they claimed was "matrix-like."  Hmmm.  I don't know about that, but it was pretty good and showed brains rattling around and ribs cracking in a pretty neat way. :)

So here is what I managed to glean form the show:

Who throws harder, an MLB pitcher or an NFL QB?

To test this out they had a MLB prospect named Jorgensen representing pitchers and Big Ben representing the QBs.  What I don't know about baseball would just about fit in the Grand Canyon, so Jorgensen seems like a fine choice.  Big Ben is OK for the QB side of things, though I would have rather seen a comparison between say, Ben and Jay?  Anyway, the athletes were allowed to say a few words, which they probably shouldn't have, since they just sounded retarded, and then the tests began with a lot of super-duper high-tech gadgetry.

Pitcher:  Arm speed=2100rpm (measured as rotational velocity)  This put the arm speed at 72mph, while the pitch was clocked at 96mph.

Big Ben:  Arm speed=2900rpm, which is 86 mph.  The ball speed at delivery was measured at 60 mph.

Overall, I would say the strength involved is similar.  The show went on to laud NFL QBs as far and away the stronger of the two throwers, but they left out some critical info, namely, How many times a game is each expected to do that?  When you watch a pitcher throw, the mechanics of the throw derive a lot of their kinetic energy from the movement of the pitchers WHOLE body, and his arm actually moves more as a guidance system.  My guess is this is because he has to throw it so many times that to rely on arm strength alone would destroy his arm in just a few throws.  When a QB throws, lower body mechanics affect his accuracy more than his power (though setting his feet is critical to a powerful throw), so most of the power in the throw is coming from arm and back strength.

Don't Play with Dangerous Balls

This test was kind of lame as they were trying to see which was the "Most dangerous ball."  Obviously none of the air-filled balls did much damage, when they were launched with identical forces at the rib cage of a crash test dummy loaded with sensors.  It was cool to watch the inflated balls deflect in slo-mo when they impacted the dummy.  They would flatten against the chest until they were only about two inches thick.  Pretty cool.  Now the hard balls they tested were a baseball and a cricket ball, which are essentially the same thing.  A cricket ball is a 1/4 of an ounce heavier and looks a little different, but they are both made in the same way, by underpaid laborers in sweatshops.  At 95mph, when they made contact they exerted 2400lbs of force.  The CGI of a baseball striking someone's head when they aren't wearing a helmet was quite...messy.  Interesting tidbit about cricket?  It is NOT illegal to strike the batter (or whatever he is called) with the ball.  In fact, it is a sound strategy, including the broken arms and legs that come with it.  Sounds ridiculous to me.

Let the Bodies Hit the Floor!

Now this one was cool.  I wish they would have been able to do this back when Atwater was laying the wood.  They wanted to see who hit harder, a Rugby tackler or an NFL player in full pads.  They got 4 guys from the LA Rugby team to represent the rugby tacklers, and Quentin Jammer from the Chargers to represent the NFL.  I don't often root for a Charger, but I have to admit, I was pulling for Jammer.  The rugby guys elected one of their own to be the "dummy," a gentleman who didn't give his name, but was no doubt called "Moose".  They got warmed up, Moose caught a lateral and WHAMMO! he was nailed and upended and driven into the ground by his teammate.  After his eyes got done rolling around in his head, they asked him if it was a good representation of a rugby hit, and he indicated that he hadn't been hit that hard in a long time.  The vitals:

Rugby tackle:  1596 lbs of force.

The significance of this is that it isn't dissipated at all.  The force is absorbed almost completely by the hittee's rib cage, with enough force to break ribs.  Ouch.

Jammer's turn.  He gets suited up and gets about a five yard head of steam running into a sensor loaded tackling dummy.  BOOOM!  First, the vitals:

Football tackle:  4807 lbs of force!!

His hit was equivalent to a 35mph car crash.  They measured the diplacement of the tackling dummy's sternum:  2 3/4 inches.  Dazaaaam...  Jammer, of course, was cocky about it.  One thing that was pointed out was that an NFL player averages 6 tackles per game, and not all of them are of the "jacked up" variety.  On the flip side, a rugby player averages 18 tackles a game, and when they computed the total game lbs of force handed out, it was pretty even.  Also, the NFL pads did a good job of dissipating all that force, creating less lb/inch pressure than a rugby hit.  I'll stick to computer solitaire, thank you.

Carry a big stick

By this time I could tell what the shows format was:  Cool test, yawner test, cool test, yawner test.  This one was kind of a yawner.  They wanted to see which stick was swinging the fastest, a hockey slap shot or a golf drive.  For hockey the chose the incomparable Luc Robitaille (sp?) and for golf they chose Jason Zubeck, he of the 400 yd drives.  The vitals

Hockey stick:  60" long  77mph rotational velocity on the stick, 90mph on the shot.

Golf club:  48" long  76mph rotational velocity, 158mph on the drive.

It is interesting to note that the law of levers doesn't account for the increased speed of the head of the golf club upon contact with the ball.  The Law states that a longer lever exerts more force, but a golf club is shorter...  well the answer lay in the mechanics of the golf swing.  As the club comes down, accelerating on a consistent curve, the golfer's hands and body reach BDC (bottom dead center) long before the club head does, and a high degree of flex is present in the shaft at this moment.  The energy stored in the fibers of the club are released by the clubs natural prediliction to return to its normal shape.  That energy is added to the energy of the swing itself, and in a perfect golf swing, both energies would be at maximum upon contact with the ball.  Thus an added 70mph to the ball speed.  It was interesting to hear that the acceleration exerted on the head of the golf club at BDC was equivalent to 278Gs.  That would be equal to about 1000mph...

Mama said knock you out

Last, they wanted to take a look at hitters from different sports, and the effect of the hitter's gear.

First they looked at a hockey enforcer, this time Kip Brennan, though I would have preferred Adam Foote.  At least Foote wouldn't have had a cheesy looking faux-hawk.  Brennan did a full gear, glove throwdown, bare knuckle punch:

1300lbs of force.

Next they looked at a heavyweight boxer, Chris Byrd.  Can't go wrong with an olympic medalist.  Byrd wore 12 oz gloves, which have 2 1/2 inches of padding on them.  (weighs about as much as a can of soda).  Bam!

1300lbs of force.

Last they looked at Mixed Martial Artist Quentin "Rampage" Jackson, who seemed to be having a lot of fun with the whole thing.  I would NOT want to be his practice dummy though.  He got pretty pumped up and then layed into the punching bag with a pair of 5oz gloves:

1900lbs of force.

When they measured the reduction of force from the 12 oz gloves and the 5 oz gloves, both came in at a 20% reduction.  Without gloves the MMA guy would have clocked in at:

2300lbs of force.

All in all pretty interesting, and one of the reasons I might get a television some day.  In the meantime my neighbors will just have to deal with me. ;)

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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