Wednesday, March 8, 2017

1st Down: Crude Oil in Football Equiptment

I'm a very big fan of American football. I played football in high school and I had no idea that actually playing the sport would change the way I view football forever. I have much more of a profound love and respect for the game that I could have ever imagined.

Many athletes from Pop Warner to the NFL participate in American football each fall season. Petrochemicals, which are chemicals obtained from petroleum or natural gas, can play a vital role in the game. One must consider the plastics used to play the sport,  the artificial turf and plastic souvenirs and cups being used for beverage consumption every game. Lets break down use of plastic concerning the actual uniform, field as well as the ball.

The outer shell of the helmet is made of a polycarbonate alloy with protective liners, some of which are inflatable, and contains foams that are meant to absorb energy on impact. The face mask is made up of either plastic or steel wire coated with a thermoplastic made up of polyethylene copolymer. The foam inside the helmet is made up of vinyl nitrate, a blend of polyvinyl chloride (PVP) and nitrile rubber

The shoulder pads underneath the uniform are constructed with a hard plastic outer shell with foam underneath to absorb the impact. The outer shell of most pads are made out of carbon fiber, produced from petroleum, coal tar pitch or polyacrylonitrille. The foam beneath the shoulder pads are also used for the thigh, knee, tail and hip pads is made using ethylene -vinyl acetate (EVA) which a copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate (VAM)

Football jerseys and uniforms are made up of a comfortable, durable and expandable fabric made mostly of nylon with polyester and spandex. Polyester as a material is made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and PET is used mostly during the production of water bottles and also for the production of clothing.

Its difficult to break down what exactly goes into making cleats because there are so many brands of cleats that cater to particular athletes. However, there essential materials that go into making cleats such as synthetic leather, nylon or polyester. The shoelaces can be cotton or nylon. Midsole could be made out of EVA or PU. The outsole of the shoe is going to be made out of durable material to gain traction with different turfs and most shoes used in the sport today use a screw-on cleat made of steel or nylon polymer.

Originally football was played on natural grass but in the 1960s natural grass became expensive to maintain in domed fields. In 1966, artificial turf was used for the first time in professional football. Initially the artificial grass was called "Chemgrass" but later referred to "Astro Turf" after making its debut in the Houston Astrodome. The fibers are made out of Nylon, polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene. Today's turf not only looks like natural grass but is also safer to play on, with added cushioning provided by high grade rubber surrounding each fiber, now made with polyethylene that is more player friendly.

The NFL footballs are made up of the highest quality cowhides that are cut, sowed inside out, and laced around the bladder made of the butyl rubber, a copolymer of isobutylene with isoprene. Isoprene is a byproduct ethylene production process using naphtha or gas oil as feedstock.

Its hard to account for all the petrochemicals that are involved in the sport but there are many other petrochemical-made products surrounding the sport. Including replica jerseys made from nylon, polyester and spandex; foam fingers made from PU; cheerleaders megaphones made from PP; souvenir beverage cups made of PP. There are even instances where plastics makes their way into the construction of the stadium. For example, in some stadiums, seating is made made of a solid injection molded plastic. Most electronic scoreboards are made up of various plastics and in some cases for roofing and exterior.

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