The Friction Behind Sports

If you’ve ever played certain sports or even watched them on tv, sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of the action, when pucks and balls shoot around the court or arena with such velocity that only the keenest eyes can track their movement.

As a general rule, the speed of balls or sporting accessories usually can be determined by using the mathematical equation determining The Coefficient of Friction (fr)

fr = Fr/N

This number is the ratio of the resistive force of friction (Fr) divided by the normal or perpendicular force (N) pushing objects together. As you could imagine the friction caused by air will usually be the lowest type of resistance, thus sports, where the ball travels through the air, will often be the quickest. However, for those sports where a ball also impacts or travels on sports surfaces, such as grass or synthetic turf, artificial hard courts, or even ice, the level of friction still needs to be high enough for players to be able to move on without risk of injury.

In fact, the science behind many modern sporting surfaces has moved light-years into the future, with many now being developed using sustainable materials, constructed to levels of durability that far surpass their predecessors, the ability to mitigate and reduce heat radiation, and significant upgrades in impact absorption. The end result is athletes are able to produce even better results, by running harder, faster and longer than ever before.

In fact, some sports have become so fast that many television broadcasters have A. I built into their cameras that assist them in keeping track of what’s going on in the game. Here are a few of the more common sports people play which will give you an idea of exactly how fast they now are!

Football (the world game)

Some might call it soccer, to differentiate it from other forms of football (which ironically all use hands more than their feet). The world game is popular for a good reason, being a sport that can easily be played by people of all ages. Professional players when they line up to take a penalty shot on goal can launch the ball at speeds of around 130 km/h. That’s faster than most speed limits on our roads!


While this game is really only popular in a handful of countries such as Australia, West Indies, England, South Africa and India, its popularity in these countries is immense. Like with many professionally played sports, radar lasers are used to measure the speed at which bowlers deliver a ball and have often been recorded at speeds up to 160km/h. When batsmen who face these balls strike them you can imagine this speed increases significantly.


With an overall similar game style to that of cricket, in which a ball is thrown at a batsman, Baseball has one major difference and that is the pitcher is not permitted a run-up. This allows pitchers to use all their body strength and essentially throw it in almost any manner, giving them the ability to propel balls slightly upward of 160 km/h. Also, just like a cricket when the batsmen connect with these pitched balls the speeds increase dramatically, often having enough velocity to take the ball high up into the grandstands, and sometimes out of the park!

Field Hockey

It might come as a slight surprise, but Field Hockey is often measured to be slightly quicker than its close relative to ice hockey. Despite the aquaplaning nature of a puck in ice hockey, it’s likely that players are not able to strike a puck quite as quickly when on ice skates, thus when hockey is played on the sports surfaces, including grass, synthetic grass and synthetic hard courts it can be found to reach speeds of up to 170km/h versus the 165km/h when played on ice.


One of the most widely played and watched sports in the world, Tennis is well known as being one of the quickest sports in the world, particularly at a professional level. Again, through the use of radar lasers, many of us will have seen our favourite players serving to their opponents, sometimes at speeds up to 253 km/h on synthetic tennis courts.


With a very similar game to tennis, except you get to wear some funky goggles, squash is played on a small court with racquets and uses a small soft rubber ball. Instead of serving over a net to your opponent, the ball is hit into a wall and players alternate turns at returning shots. Professional squash players’ serve’ has been recorded at speeds of around 280 km/h


The only sport which uses a device is called a shuttlecock, which is essentially half a sphere or ball with a feathered cone extending on one side. This item is struck over a net similar to what is used in volleyball and has a game style similar to that of tennis. Because of the unique design of this device, it allows it to accelerate immensely upon impact with a racquet, but then slow down drastically as it descends. At the time of this initial impact, professionals have been recorded striking these sporting devices at a speed nearing 500km/h!

Leave a Comment