Super Bowl Science: Innovations That Shaped Modern Football


Super Bowl Science: Innovations That Shaped Modern Football

January 30, 2015

Last year’s Super Bowl was witnessed by well over 100 million people around the world. It’s the most celebrated sporting event in the U.S. Those of us at Intellectual Ventures’ headquarters in Washington will argue that football is best celebrated here in Seattle, with our amazing Seahawks and in the company of the twelves. And while we’ll be watching Sunday’s game for the raw talent of Wilson, Sherman, and Lynch, there are a few innovations that we #SeahawksScience geeks will be watching for, too. Take a look at some of the technologies, sciences, and discoveries that have helped evolve the sport through the years.

Instant Replay

Instant replay technology was first introduced to football during a monumental game between Army and Navy in 1963. 29-year-old Tony Verna, who was directing the game broadcast that day, used his washer/dryer-sized Ampex tape machine to let viewers re-watch the most important plays.

Protective Gear

The first NFL football helmet was a soft leather style. Over the decades, football helmets transitioned into a more advanced model, taking both safety and comfort into account. Today, some helmets are designed to detect concussions and help deter other injuries.

The Football

There’s a reason DeflateGate has been at the center of conversation in the sports world this year. A football’s PSI can be a determinant of winning and losing. Footballs with less pressure make it easier to throw—and easier to catch. To explain the science behind football PSI, GeekWire visited a Renton, Wash. sports equipment manufacturer.

The Huddle

Not a technology, but an important discovery that’s become a part of every team strategy. The formation of football players around each other to plan the upcoming play was introduced by Paul Hubbard, the quarterback for Gallaudet in the 1890s. The school was a university for the deaf, and therefore Hubbard pulled his players tightly into a circle so they could sign without the other team seeing. Keep this factoid in your back pocket for your next sports trivia night.


Football helped progress rehydration methods. Former University of Florida Gators coach Ray Graves pulled together a team of researchers to invent Gatorade®, a drink that replenished electrolytes so players wouldn’t collapse under the heat of “The Swamp”—the nickname for Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.


The modern football goal post is called the slingshot goal post, and was invented by Joel Rottman as an improvement to the old-style H-goal post. What was Rottman’s inspiration for the new design? A dinner fork.  

Today, wearable technologies and other athletic inventions have the potential to change the way the game is played even further. Do you think modern inventions are improving the sport or drawing it too far from its classic roots? Let us know at @IVinvents. While you’re throwing back Skittles® and causing little Beastquakes this Sunday, pay attention to the new inventions used both on and off the field.

Go Hawks!

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