Comparing Sports Kinetic Energy

comparing sports energy-header

We’re obsessed with the power and speed of professional sports. Whether it’s slipping a fastball towards home plate at over 105 mph or slapping a puck so hard it moves at just under 109 mph across the ice, these feats require immense skill and physical prowess to accomplish.

Measuring the kinetic energy produced by different sports

The energy created through these acts is extreme. We looked at the average velocity at which a ball and puck moved in meters per second to determine the energy (joules) they generated. Just how much energy does that tennis volley create? Is it more than a golf ball driven down the fairway? Read on to learn more about the power behind some of your favorite sports.

The Power of a Hockey Puck

kinetic energy produced by a hockey puck-graphic

Hockey pucks have been hit so hard they’ve broken a player’s athletic cup, and goalies have had their contact lenses pop out after being struck in the face with a puck. Moral of the story: Hockey players can hit a puck really, really hard.

A standard hockey puck weighs 170 grams, and a player’s strike with their stick produces an average velocity of 43.85 meters per second. This creates over 163 joules of energy. Zdeno Chara, a defenseman captain for the Boston Bruins, holds the record for the fastest slap shot in NHL history – at 108.8 mph. You wouldn’t want to be the opposing goalie facing off against Chara’s shot.

The Power of a Tennis Ball

kinetic energy produced by a tennis ball-graphic

While tennis may be perceived as safer due to it being a non-contact sport, there are plenty of examples of the destructive power of a well-placed neon sphere. Andrea Hlavackova, of the Czech Republic, suffered a fractured orbital bone at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after Switzerland’s Martina Hingis’s volley crashed into her face.

Tennis balls have an average weight of just under 58 grams. They feature an average velocity of nearly 70 meters per second when served – nearly 140 joules are generated. Just remember to drop the racket and duck if you see a highlighter-yellow blur heading for your forehead.

The Power of a Golf Ball

kinetic energy produced by a golf ball-graphic

Word on the street is that Ben Roethlisberger once hit a golf ball so hard it killed a tree. There have been incidents where spectators at tournaments have been struck by golfers’ errant slices. A broken nose at the Australian Masters is par for the course. Those tiny, diverted white balls – when combined with drivers that are engineered by aerospace companies – pack a punch when they’re launched into the air by golfers.

Each golf ball weighs just under 46 grams and achieves an average velocity of over 82 meters per second. This creates almost 158 joules of energy. Maybe there’s a reason you’re told to pay attention on the golf course when someone yells, “fore!”

The Power of a Baseball

kinetic energy produced by a baseball

MLB throws have averaged 92 mph across all pitchers in the 2013 season; they don’t call them fastballs because they’re moving slow. One incident that’s etched into the minds of those that witnessed it? When Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson’s fastball connected with a dove midflight during a live baseball game. It serves as a stark reminder to stay very, very far away from major league pitchers and to make sure they’re throwing in any direction other than at you.

Baseballs – heavier than a tennis ball, but not as heavy as a hockey puck – weigh just under 150 grams and have an average velocity of over 46 meters per second. This generates close to 162 joules of energy.

The Power of a Bullet

table comparing kinetic energy of sports objects to the energy produced by a .22 caliber bullet

Energy generated by hitting a hockey puck, baseball, or golf ball is greater than the energy created by firing a bullet from of a gun. Many .22 caliber bullets weigh under 3 grams and have an average velocity around 330 meters per second – this is only slightly greater than serving a tennis ball. Behold, the true power of sports!

Sports – maybe not faster than a speeding bullet, but perhaps more powerful than one – capture our excitement with the energy they generate. It just so happens that this energy isn’t solely a feeling, but an actual output of the play that unfolds in front of our eyes.

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