Sports Engineering

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 109–118 | Cite as

Understanding the effect of finger–ball friction on the handling performance of rugby balls

  • S. E. Tomlinson
  • R. Lewis
  • S. Ball
  • A. Yoxall
  • M. J. Carré
Original Article


Handling errors are often seen in professional rugby games and even more so in amateur rugby. This paper analyses the problem of ball mishandling using high-speed video footage of passes and a bespoke finger friction rig. The high-speed video analysis showed that when the ball is caught, often there is a fluctuating movement of the fingers over the surface of the ball. It also showed that the fingers move over the surface of the ball when the ball is thrown, confirming that the dynamic friction is a good measure of how easily a ball can be handled. Rugby ball surface samples were used, on a finger friction rig, to assess the coefficient of friction between the finger and the balls. The currently manufactured balls displaying the highest coefficients of friction in clean, dry conditions were the design with square, ‘sharp’ pimples and also the design with a mixture of small and large pimples. The most consistent ball across wet and dry conditions was the ball with round, large, densely populated pimples. It was also shown that when water is added to the surface of the ball or finger, there was little variation in performance between the ball varieties.


Friction Grip Rugby Skin 


  1. 1.
    Agache PG, Monneur C, Leveque JL, Rigal JD (1980) Mechanical properties and young’s modulus of human skin in vivo. Arch Dermatol Res 269:221–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bobjer O, Johansson S-E, Piguet S (1993) Friction between hand and handle. Effects of oil and lard on textured and non-textured surfaces; perception of discomfort. Appl Ergon 24:190–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Burstedt MKO, Flanagan JR, Johansson RS (1999) Control of grasp stability in humans under different frictional conditions during multidigit manipulation. J Neurophysiol 82:2393–2405Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dinç OS, Ettles CM, Calabrese SJ, Scarton HA (1991) Some parameters affecting tactile friction. Trans ASME J Tribol 113:512–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Holmes C, Jones R, Harland A, Petzing J (2006) Ball launch characteristics for elite rugby union players. The engineering of sport 6, vol 1. Springer, New York, pp 211–216Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Board InternationalRugby (2006) Law 2 the ball, playing charter. International Rugby board, DublinGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Johansson RS, Westling G (1987) Signals in tactile afferents from the fingers eliciting adaptive motor responses during precision grip. Exp Brain Res 66:141–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mark JE, Erman B, Eirich FR (1994) Science and technology of rubber, 2nd edn. Academic, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Schallamach A (1953) The velocity and temperature dependence of rubber friction. Proc Phys Soc B 66:386–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Tomlinson SE, Lewis R, Carré MJ (2007) Review of the frictional properties of the finger–object contact when gripping. Proc Inst Mech Eng J J Eng Tribol 221:841–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Sports Engineering Association 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. E. Tomlinson
    • 1
  • R. Lewis
    • 1
  • S. Ball
    • 1
  • A. Yoxall
    • 2
  • M. J. Carré
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringThe University of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Human Centred EngineeringSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations