Glenbrook South Year-End Projects

The Physics of Sports

Basic Research Questions


Your role as researcher for this project involves acquiring a wealth of technical information on the application of physics priniciples to a variety of sports. The process of conducting a literature search should yield some basic information about the connections between physics and athletics. Some basic topics for research and ultimate discussion have been listed below to assist you in the initial stages of your literature search. The role of this listing is to provide an initial framework for your literature search and not a conclusive list of topics to be discussed. Your group is expected to go beyond these topics, exploring diverse areas of individual interest about the physics of sports.

  1. Identify the variety of kinematic descriptions of motion and use such descriptions to discuss the physics of motion for a specific or a variety of sports.
  2. Use kinematic equations and (if appropriate) projectile principles and reasonable estimations of real-world motion parameters (initial velocity, time, displacement, acceleration, etc.) to describe a final outcome (displacement, time, final velocity, acceleration, etc.) of a motion in sports.
  3. Identify Newton's laws and discuss a variety of their applications to sports.
  4. Using free-body diagrams, Newton's second law, and vector applications, explain the motion of objects (in sports) in terms of individual forces, net force, and acceleration.
  5. Describe the motion characteristics of a projectile and identify such projectiles in sports.
  6. Discuss the influence of air resistance on the path of an air-borne object and relate such influences to aerodynamic principles.
  7. Analyze movement in sports using work-energy principles; represent motion in terms of work-energy bar charts and utilize the work-energy theorem to perform mathematical analyses of movements in sports.
  8. Discuss the impulse-momentum change theorem and use the theorem to perform both qualitative and quantitative analyses of collisions in sports.
  9. Discuss the law of momentum conservation and use a momentum analysis to study collisions in sports.
  10. Discuss circular amd rotational motion principles and apply these principles to analyze a movement in sports.
  11. Compare and contrast selected movements which are common to all sports (collisions, accelerations, projectiles, rotation and spin, etc.) and explain the differences of these movements among sports in terms of the equipment, the goals of the sports, etc.
  12. Describe the method of video analysis and explain how sports scientists can use such methods analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of certain movements in sports.
  13. Describe the method of computer modeling and explain how sports scientists can use such methods to analyze certain movements in sports and make improvements in the form and style.
  14. Identify an example by which scientific knowledge and scientific research has led to improvements in a given sport.


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The GBS Physics staff invite you to send electronic mail:

Tom Henderson

Howard Jenewein

John Lewis

Neil Schmidgall

Dave Smith

Suzanne Webb

Brian Wegley

Questions and comments can be sent to Tom Henderson.

This page last updated on 2/22/98.