With NFL season about to begin, it’s time to take a look at that all-time favorite pastime of football players and fans alike—physics! From what everyone remembers of Newton’s Second Law, F=ma, or for the plebs, Force = mass x acceleration. Football players certainly have mass, and they accelerate as they run into each other, on the line or off. Now a Stanford professor is trying to calculate how much force there is. “You’ve got two bodies moving quickly and they’re absorbing a tremendous amount,” says Dr. Daniel Garza, an orthopedist who works with Stanford U and the San Francisco 49ers.
The problem, Garza explains, is that ultimately all that force can be dangerous to football players, even if the initial impact is invisible to doctors on the field. He cites the case of Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Chris Simms, who got hit in the course of the game, but kept on playing because no one could quite figure out what was wrong. He ended up losing his spleen, but he could just as easily have lost his life.
To solve the mystery of football force, Garza has developed a vest with sensors that players can wear under their uniform. Ultimately, his goal is to discover how much force they are absorbing with each hit, but he is still having a hard time with that. The hits are stronger and faster than he anticipated. Nevertheless, some players have started wearing the prototype to help Garza with his studies.
Garza adds that the goal isn’t simply to know which linesmen are really the toughest. He also hopes that by measuring force, doctors will be able to determine when it’s time for a player to take a break, for the good of the team but also for their own well-being. It’s a high tech spin on football, and where else would that be happening but right here in Silicon Valley.
Read More at ABC 7.