Sports Ball Aerodynamics

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Abstract

Aerodynamics plays a prominent role in defining the flight of a ball that is struck or thrown through the air in almost all ball sports. The main interest is in the fact that the ball can often deviate from its initial straight path, resulting in a curved, or sometimes an unpredictable, flight path. It is particularly fascinating that not all the parameters that affect the flight of a ball are always under human influence. Lateral deflection in flight, commonly known as swing, swerve or curve, is well recognized in cricket, tennis, soccer, volleyball and baseball. In most of these sports, the lateral deflection is produced by spinning the ball about an axis perpendicular to the line of flight, which gives rise to what is commonly known as the Magnus effect, named after the German chemist/physicist, Gustav Magnus.