Jump to content

Blog goNavy51

  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Conservation of Momentum and Dick Butkus.




This is NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, the greatest linebacker of all time. He played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1973, during which time he had 1,020 tackles, 22 interceptions, and 27 fumble recoveries, and is renowned for his punishing tackles and speed.

In this picture, he is bringing down most of the Green Bay offense (which entire teams seem to be unable to do today as Rodgers and the Packers advance to 10-0.) There are 5 or 6 men, and each are linemen, so we'll say 250 pounds or 115 kg per person, and they're probably moving around 3 m/s as they push the pile. Butkus was listed at 6'3", 245 lbs, or 112 kg.

Using the Law of Conservation of Momentum (P before=P after), we can determine how fast he has to be moving in order to even match the momentum of the other men, and create a perfectly inelastic collision in which the the entire mass of 7 sweaty football players stops moving altogether.

m(total, offense)*v(total, offense) + m(Butkus)*v(Butkus) = m(Butkus and the unfortunate Packers)*v

(6 men *115 kg) * (3 m/s) + (112 kg) * v = 0 (final velocity is 0)

Butkus would have to be moving at 18.5 m/s, or about 40 miles per hour. The approximate world record for instantaneous velocity was set by Usain Bolt... and was 10 m/s.

However, the velocity that was found only measured the speed of his center of mass. Butkus's greatest strength was a player was his ability to explode his hips, chest, and arms through opponents, creating a velocity and therefore a momentum that was more than enough to stop anything short of a semi truck.


Recommended Comments

Seems like he's trying to hug the guys rather than block them... but I'd be interested to see how Ray Lewis would match up with Dick Butkus when measuring the velocity he had to be moving before making a hit (remember, players today are faster than they were in Butkus's time). I know Sports Science did a video sometime recently (maybe last NFL season) about linebackers and hits and the like, check it out.

Link to comment

Alright so you already knew to expect a comment about Butkus, although I'm surprised Chris hasn't left one already! I give you props for this lovely, very indepth post and finishing your independent study packet and calc tonight. Good work!

Link to comment
Guest ethompson


Great post! I think it would be cool if the picture was a video though and then we could see how it played out. I agree with Kapow, good work on physics and calc tonight and good luck on the test tomorrow!

Link to comment
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...