Sport Science

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 The Sport! Science Faq

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All Questions are from the publication The Sporting Life unless otherwise indicated.

 

This list was last updated May 15, 1997

 
Click me to find out the answer  Why do my muscles sometimes burn when I'm excercising?

Click me to find out the answer  Why do I feel sore the day after I exercise?
Click me to find out the answer  What happens to my heart when I exercise?
Click me to find out the answer What is "VO2 max" and how does it measure cardiovascular fitness?
Click me to find out the answer What's the best position for my hands when I swim freestyle?
Click me to find out the answer How high can you jump?
Click me to find out the answer Why do long jumpers "run" several steps in the air after they take off?
Click me to find out the answer How does ice help a sprained ankle or other injury?
Click me to find out the answer How important is my grip on the bat when I'm striking the ball?
Click me to find out the answer  Why does spinning a ball make it curve?

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How does Michael Jordan manage to hang in the air for so long when he goes up for a slam dunk?

 Actually, he doesn't hang in the air any longer than any other basketball player. It just looks that way. Once he leaves the ground, Jordan is governed by the same laws of physics as the rest of us. How high he jumps depends entirely on how much force he generates with his legs as he leaves the ground. And how long he stays aloft is directly related to the height of the jump: the higher the jump, the longer he stays in the air.

A vertical jump of four feet leads to a hang time of one second. That's an unusually high jump and, it turns out, most basketball players, including Michael Jordan, don't jump that high. A three-foot-high jump has a hang time of 0.87 seconds. All the artistry of a slam dunk takes place in just eight- or nine-tenths of a second!

Jordan makes it seem longer because he holds onto the ball longer than other players before shooting or dunking, waiting until he's on the way down to let go of the ball. His tendency to pull his legs up as the jump progresses also makes it seem like he's staying higher than he really is.

Next time you watch the Bulls play, try to time how long Jordan stays aloft and compare it to other players' hang times. You'll see there's not much difference.


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