Maths in Sport

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Everywhere we look, we see sport; sport on TV, sport in the park, sport in schools, sport everywhere and anywhere! But what we often don’t think of is where there is Sport there is maths.

So many concepts of what we learn in maths are at work in the sport we see every day. Whether it be Ronnie O’Sullivan needing to count and multiply to work out winning breaks or points needed to take a frame to Andy Murray needing probability to guess where his opponent will serve or using percentages to decide upon his own strategy, mathematics is the one constant used in sport.

Amongst our sporting greats, the use of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, geometry, trigonometry, symmetry, percentages, patterns and mechanics are just some of the mathematical topics commonly used.

Today we are going to focus on probably the world’s most famous athlete and the biggest star at the recent 2012 Olympic Games… Usain Bolt!

Mathematics can and is used in every part of Usain Bolt’s training and preparation, dietary requirements and even his personal life (working out how many 000’s his cheques may have!).

We will be focusing on his actual talent, or should we say mechanical genius and how he is the fastest man in the world! Sprinting does have some genetic preferences, as people with a higher level of fast twitch muscle fibres are going to be quicker than those with small, but at the top end where all the athletes are almost of an equal level, mechanics and mathematics proves to be the difference.

Before the start of a race what is the perfect angle for a sprinters feet to be at taking off from the blocks?

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Front leg knee angle approx. 90 degrees

Rear leg knee angle approx. 120 degrees

Research shows that to create maximum force and acceleration from the start, the above angles should be used.

Force = Mass x Acceleration.

How long should it take before a sprinters body should be upright, running at 90 degrees to the floor?

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By 30m a sprinter should be upright.

The first 7-8 strides the angle of the body will increase from 45 degrees to 60 degrees to help reach 70% of maximum velocity.

Then by 16-17 strides (30m) you should be upright helping to reach 90% of your maximum velocity.

What angle should sprinters arms and legs be to create the optimum speed and velocity whilst running?


How many meters should a sprinter start slowing down before the end of the race? Why?

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40m – shocking but our bodies cannot cope with sprinting at 100% for 100m therefore it is more effective to start to decelerate but increase our stride pattern.

Research showed that by doing so, the last 40m could be run quicker than trying to sprint at 100%

Just some of the questions answered through maths. Mechanics of the body is essential to making sprinters run split seconds quicker than their opponents and many people are employed just to do this job, not just in athletics but across all sports.

Mathematics can be found all around us in sport! Make sure you sport an active and mathematic lifestyle!

Posted on October 23, 2013 .