Engineering and sports: How engineering finds a place in Athletics

Engineering is a creative field, its science walks in step with the science of life and so, you find it in every aspect of everyday life. It is no surprise that engineering finds its place in sports and athletics. Engineers play an important role in sports, especially in the design of sporting equipment and high-performance athletics. From tennis racquets to swimsuits, engineers design with the goal of creating lighter, faster, and stronger equipment. High-tech, well-designed gear helps athletes perform to their highest abilities while also staying safe. For most engineered sports equipment, energy transfer is the single most important scientific concept. Football pads and helmets must absorb high-energy collisions. The best golf clubs transfer as much energy to the golf ball as possible. Engineers must be able to understand and apply the principles of kinetic and potential energy to design excellent sporting equipment. 

silhouette of three women running on grey concrete roadSports engineering as a discipline is a very new one, getting its independent niche around 1998. Sports engineering is the art and science of designing, making, and maintaining different sports goods, sports infrastructure, and other supportive products. But, in a deeper sense, sports engineering studies the scientific aspects of sports performance by analyzing the performance of athletes, sports goods, and other materials influencing the sports performance with the objective of enhancing the sporting experience in all aspects. Sports engineering includes a wide range of subjects related to sports in its wings. The sports engineer requires expertise in many technical skills; from mechanical design to aerodynamics, material science to computer modeling. Most of these skills are very similar to those of a mechanical engineer; indeed, many successful sports engineers take their first degree in mechanical engineering. You may study biomechanics, anatomy, exercise physiology, and sports psychology and you’ll certainly have to develop analytical skills and expertise in scientific inquiry.

The technology applied in the field of sports engineering is divided into four disciplines –

  1. Materials Engineering 

Materials engineering in sports includes the development of new textile materials that are used in sportswear, the invention of new materials to be used in sports equipment and the development of new materials for sports playing surface. Advances in textiles for swimsuit are an example of textile engineering in sports that has produced a significant impact on an athlete’s performance. 

  • Computational Modelling

Computational modeling is commonly used in all engineering disciplines to represent complex systems. Among notable computational modeling methods are computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA). CFD is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical methods and algorithms to solve and analyze problems that involve fluid flows, whereas FEA is a numerical technique for finding approximate solutions to boundary value problems for differential equations. Cycling is a noteworthy example of sports, which has been greatly influenced by CFD. CFD analysis has been used to assess the aerodynamics of the bike, rider, and clothing. It is used to model how air flows over an object and return useful values such as drag coefficients and pressure maps. 

  • Instrumentation 

Instrumentation that involves sensors and electronic components also plays a major role in advancing sports to a whole new level, for instance, the video technology that assists official’s decisions. 

  • Design and Ergonomics

The ways of running, biking, and skiing, for instance, have developed and improved day by day, and so do the athletes’ demands of ergonomic clothing. The sports fabrics are generally ultra-breathable and have high heat and moisture management properties, lightweight, fast-drying properties and feature elasticity properties

 The latest sports textile materials are much more functional for fulfilling specific needs in different sports activities. For example, in the 2008 Olympics, some cycling teams introduced athletic gear with attached battery strips to heat up the muscles before the race for enhanced performance. 

You could end up designing equipment or working with athletes to understand their interaction with the equipment and help them improve their performance. You could even work with governing bodies to assess the effects of a change in the rules or understand injury risks and how to reduce them. 

Sports Engineering and technology have an important role to play in sport. New technologies can keep the sport alive and relevant. This field has an immense impact on sports and even more so at this present day. With the rapid advancement of technology and state of the art research, sports engineering has indeed become a game-changer, redefining sports perceived by man once before.