The application of simulation to the understanding of football flight

This paper demonstrates the value of using a flight model in the analysis of the flight of a football, and explores the complexity of the model required to produce useful results. Two specific aspects of the simulation are addressed: the need to include a model of spin decay and the requirement to include a full aerodynamic drag profile as a function of Reynolds number rather than a single indicative value. Both are aspects of the ball performance that are experimentally intensive to obtain. The simulated flights show that the inclusion of spin degradation is important if flight validation is the objective, but that it may be unnecessary in a comparative study. The simple analytical model of spin degradation is shown to overestimate the reduction in lateral deviation when compared to experimentally acquired data. Therefore, the experimental method is preferred. The analysis of the shape of the drag profile (drag coefficient against Reynolds number) is explored, and it is shown from the simulated flights that post-critical coefficients of drag have the greatest effect on trajectories, and an average drag value is sufficient for most modelled scenarios.