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Soccer is without a doubt the most popular sport on the planet. Its simplicity of needing just an open field, two goalposts (although many people improvise this part, especially in the world’s poorer regions), and most importantly – the ball.
The latter is the topic of this article, precisely its air pressure which automatically ensures its hardness. Many people feel that soccer balls are too hard and wonder how can soccer players hit them with their heads without feeling any pain.
So, why are soccer balls so hard?
Soccer balls are hard because of the precise gauge of air pressure in them. They need to be hard so they can bounce properly, especially when players are heading them.
It’s incredibly important for professionals to use proper tools in their trade, as it ensures maximum efficiency and more often than not (even though this isn’t the case with football), their own safety.
This isn’t the only reason the balls are so hard, and it’s important to know how to properly pump the ball, how they check the air pressure, and how to tell if the ball is properly inflated.
In this article we’ll be answering all of the questions mentioned above, so let’s get started.
Why Are Soccer Balls So Hard?
If the air pressure in the ball is too high – the ball will resemble a balloon, and if it’s too low it will cause pain when the players hit it and it will not bounce off enough.
Take for example a truck transporting its cargo. Every truck has a predetermined amount of weight it can possibly transport.
The reasoning behind this is the same with soccer balls: if the truck is overfilled with cargo it’ll be too difficult to move it and maneuver it properly (not to mention that it’s dangerous for the vehicle itself and for the driver), if the truck is empty – not only is it a waste of money but can easily shuffle to either side, giving the driver little maneuverability over the vehicle.
Soccer balls follow the same pattern: if the air pressure is too high, not only is it vulnerable to bursting (since there’s a special sort of balloon inside with a membrane) then the ball will resemble the behavior of a balloon.
Once kicked, it will not move properly and will easily change direction (which will not happen with a properly inflated ball).
In that case, it can very often fly in the air too much, more often than not without the player wanting to do that.
When the air pressure is too low, the ball follows the opposite pattern. It will take too much force for a player to move it, making it difficult to play forward and relentlessly tiring to move through the air.
It tires the players much faster, often causing pain, especially when the players hit the ball with their heads. Unfortunately, it also brings danger to the pitch.
Players often get hit in the face (or in the head in general) during games, and sometimes, when the ball is hit hard enough and under the proper angle – the player receiving the strike can lose consciousness (because of the concussion).
If the ball is too deflated the strike felt on the players will hurt much more and will cause more damage as the ball bounces less.
When the ball is properly inflated, it moves with appropriate ease and it doesn’t hurt when the players hit it with their heads, no matter how many times they do it in succession.
In the following paragraph, you’ll see a difference between necessary air pressure for different-sized balls.
Air Pressure For Every Soccer Ball Size.
FIFA laws state that the air pressure of a regulation-size soccer ball has to be between 8.5 and 15.6 psi.
It often happens in games, something that we’ve especially witnessed during the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia when the manufacturer of the balls did a poor job, that players kick the balls out because they’re too inflated or deflated.
The referee can do the same, but because of this specific reason, there’s a whole crew of people who check the air pressure on every ball before the game starts.
There are different ball sizes in soccer, mostly because of age differences. Junior teams play with smaller balls, etc. The sizes go as presented: Size 1 (skill ball – all ages, used for developing footwork skills and ball control) – 46-51 centimeters in circumference, Size 3 (U8 and younger) – 58.5-61 centimeters in circumference, Size 4 (U8 through U12, also known as youth ball) – 63.5-66 centimeters in circumference, and finally Size 5 (adult/professional, ages 12 and older) – 68-70 centimeters in circumference. Note that not all soccer fields are the same size too.
All sizes, except for Size 1, require between 8.5 psi and 15.6 psi in order to properly function. Size 1 does not have a balloon with a membrane inside, it is rather bouncy and is often used as a collectible.
How To Check psi In a Soccer Ball?
The best way to measure the pressure in a soccer ball is by using an air pressure gauge.
It’s recommended to use it instantly after inflating the ball, before using it. Simply stick the needle in the blowhole and the indicator on the gauge will turn.
Many (mostly analog) air pressure gauges have already predetermined points for balls of different sizes (not only soccer but basketball and volleyball, as well).
There is no difference in effect between an analog and a digital air pressure gauge.
If you don’t have a gauge there are other ways for you to measure the amount of air pressure. The bounce test is not one of the ways to go, as is commonly misbelieved.
The test tells us nothing, aside from the fact that balls bounce. The only information we can get from this test is whether or not the ball is deflated, since deflated balls barely bounce.
There is no way to tell whether a ball is too inflated or properly inflated with this test.
The squeeze test is much better. If the ball is too difficult to squeeze (the sense of which you’ll gain with experience) then it’s too inflated, deflated balls are much easier to squeeze.
What Are Professional Soccer Balls Inflated With?
Despite the modern myth, I assure you that soccer balls are not, have never been, and most likely will never be inflated with helium.
Believe it or not, there is not a single record in the football history of a ball being inflated with helium.
The thing is – there wouldn’t be any noticeable difference anyway, the surrounding skin on the ball is too heavy for such a small amount of helium to achieve the effect it achieves with balloons (not to mention that for scientific reasons helium could never fit in the pressure range needed for soccer balls).
Soccer balls are inflated with regular air, using a compressed air pump.
How To Tell If a Soccer Ball Is Properly Inflated?
If you’re playing soccer it will be pretty easy to come to the conclusion whether the ball is too inflated or deflated.
Deflated balls will be difficult to move, often causing pain (especially when heading them), and will produce a different sound from properly inflated balls, a sound resembling slapping something hard and immovable, like a wall or a piece of wood.
If the ball is too inflated it will bounce way too much and will fly easily, it will also change direction more easily (especially in-flight, when the ball is too inflated even a soft breeze can move it while it’s in the air).
When hit, the ball will produce a sound similar to slapping an empty plastic bottle.
The best way to check the proper inflation of the ball is by using the method mentioned above, an air pressure gauge.
Soccer players, just as much as any athletes, spend their entire lives developing the skills needed to get to the top of their game and stay there.
The sport has been around for over a century (although, according to some sources; even longer), and it’s still facing no shortage of fans, astonished by its beauty and the movement of the players on the pitch.
The precise movements of the players’ feet determine the path of the ball, and sometimes hitting the ball just 2 millimeters to the right or left can cause it to move by a few meters to either side when it’s hitting the target.
Given the amount of accuracy needed to achieve this, having the ball miss the target because it’s deflated or too inflated would be disappointing for both the fans and the players, and the players would face an overwhelming amount of discouragement.
It’s important to follow the rules of any sport, ensuring fair play, and it’s the duty of staff in match organization to ensure the usage of proper materials in the beautiful game.