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January 2020


Aremi MacDonald

Using CFD to optimise the Super Bowl: from the football to the stadium

In honour of the Super Bowl, we looked into optimising American football using CFD. Here are some interesting things to know...

American football has its own day of the week dedicated to the sport. If that doesn’t signify cultural significance then I don’t know what does. This weekend, millions will be watching as the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers for Super Bowl LIV.

Here’s how CFD comes in:

We’ve already posted about the aerodynamics of a golf ball:

So, in honour of this weekend’s 54th Super Bowl, this time we took it upon ourselves to dig a little deeper into the aerodynamics of football. Here are some interesting facts about the sport that might pique your interest:

The aerodynamics of a football

It’s not hard to tell that a football’s teardrop-esque shape is more streamlined than the round shape of most sports balls. The air flow around a football is smooth and laminar. As air travels around the ball, its rounded tail allows for the air streams to come back together in a streamlined fashion, providing the least amount of drag. View the full simulation report here.

Playing the game

A few years back, researchers at NASA explained the science behind performing the most aerodynamic throws, kicks and passes during a football game.

When a quarterback throws the football he ideally wants to throw a tight spiral with a high rotation rate to help stabilize the ball as it flies through the air.

- Rabi Mehta, chief of the Experimental AeroPhysics Branch at Ames, NASA.

A tight and controlled throw will help stabilize the ball- preventing it from wobbling, (which produces a higher drag coefficient), meaning it will reach its destination much faster.

When kicking, it is best to kick the ball so that it spins along a horizontal axis as it’s moving forward in the air. All in all, understanding basic concepts of aerodynamics could help a player’s performance on the field, and help score those winning points.

Designing stadiums with the help of CFD

With hundreds of thousands of fans making the annual voyage to stadiums across the U.S. during football season, ensuring safety and comfort, while providing the ultimate entertainment experience for its attendees is an absolute necessity. Designers are now looking at CFD as an essential step when planning these massive arenas.  

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.


Equipped with a retractable roof, more than 673 concession stands and approximately 71,000 seats, designing this space was certainly no easy feat. The project was designed by HOK and inaugurated in 2017.

The stadium’s original design planned on directing air flow through large ducts approximately 91 metres in the air above the field, however, using a CFD simulation, engineers were able to find an alternative pathway that not only saved eight million dollars, but also eliminated more than 400,000 kilograms of unnecessary sheet metal from the project. The alterations also provided a safer installation process for the workers involved.

Mega-stadiums are now housed all over the world, with many currently underway. These billion-dollar projects rely on quality and cost-efficient designs to get them to the finish line. CFD analysis is proving to do just that!