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Why Do Football Players Throw Spiral Passes?

Why Do Football Players Throw Spiral Passes?

Touchdown passes and end zone dances are happening every day at the Indianapolis Colts Football Experience in the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience. Aspiring future Colts can learn about Reggie Wayne and catch spiral passes just like him!

In football, the quarterback will often throw spiral passes to a receiver—but why? Our super smart friends at Forbes point out that, in another favorite American sport, baseball, the curveball is used to make it harder for the batter to hit. With that same logic, putting a spin on a football would make it harder for a receiver to catch, right? 

Not quite! 

Why football players throw spiral passes

Football players throw spiral passes because, it doesn’t make the ball go farther or make it harder to catch, but instead controls the ball’s path! This is due to the football’s shape and angular momentum. When a player throws a football, the ball balances energy from the throw and the gravitational forces acting on it. When a spiral is added, it helps combat the gravitational forces acting on it, keeping its path more direct. 

With angular momentum, the football will basically keep the same position throughout its flight. If it’s thrown with its nose facing a bit up into the sky, as long as it’s spinning, it’ll pretty much stay that way until it hits the ground or is caught.

That means the flight is more predictable, which means that it’s easier both for the quarterback to aim a spiraled pass, and it’s easier for a receiver to catch it!

Don’t get yourself down if you don’t throw a perfect spiral the first time—it’s tough! Quarterbacks and receivers have to work really hard to perfect their passes among all the tackling. At the Colts Football Experience, you can throw the game-winning pass or catch it—and practice as often as you’d like!

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Categories: Exhibits, Never Stop Asking Why
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