Are Soccer Balls Hollow Inside?

Soccer has grown over its lifetime to become one of the world’s most popular sports.

From its inception, the soccer ball has gradually been refined to become the spherical object that we instantly recognise and love today.

However, just because we – as fans – know what a soccer ball looks like, doesn’t mean we have a full grasp of its entire structural properties.

This naturally leads me on to the topic of today’s article, which pertains to whether soccer balls are hollow.

So, as usual I’ll start with a concise answer…

Soccer balls possess a hollow component as part of their overall spherical structure, as they contain an empty space within them that serves the purpose of rounding them out. Although, their inner bodies are also filled with air, which also contributes towards their uniform bounce and aerodynamic flight abilities.

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Now, let’s look at this in a little more detail.


Why soccer balls are hollow

Sometimes we don’t stop to consider why things are the way they are.

For example, why is the sky blue? Why do birds fly?

Or for the sake of topical relevance, do soccer balls have energy or do they contain helium within them?

In the same vain, it’s quite important to internalise why soccer balls are made to a certain specification.

Which is why I’ve outlined the main reasons that explain why they are hollow.


1. Optimal flight

why soccer balls are hollow - optimal flight

Imagine if soccer balls were not as hard as they actually are.

A person would attempt to kick one and their foot would simply pierce into the outer surface.

The absorption of that forward momentum would result in a lack of overall ball movement as the object would only travel over a very short distance in the air or along the ground.

Therefore, the empty air space confinement within a soccer ball ensures a sort of mini-rebound off the boot.

This allows it to float in the air for a short period of time before the forces of weight and drag fully take over and cause a descent towards the ground.

You’ll typically encounter that manufacturers specify suitable air pressure levels for each type and size of soccer ball that they produce, as this helps with bounce uniformity in addition to their aerodynamism when in flight.


2. Bounce uniformity

why soccer balls are hollow - bounce uniformity

Back in the day, soccer balls were made with pig’s bladder which wasn’t the best for their overall shape.

What this meant was that soccer balls rarely went in the direction that players intended, ultimately detracting enjoyment and predictability from the respective leisure and competitive experiences that the game has to offer.

I liken the balls of yesteryear to a poorly stuffed teddy bear that lacks a recognisable shape.

The hollowness of today’s soccer balls solidifies their roundness, as the air that’s sealed into the object gives them their uniform bounce.


What’s inside a soccer ball?

Just because soccer balls are hollow doesn’t mean that there’s nothing within them.

As you’ll already know, there is a certain amount of air present inside them.

And in addition to the air, there is a natural or synthetic rubber coating – commonly referred to as the bladder – that separates the inner structure from the outer surface.

Take a look at this neat video which better illustrates my point:

If you watched the entire clip, you’ll see that the bladder of this soccer ball was overlaid with some sort of cotton or polyester threading, which plays an instrumental part in determining just how bouncy and responsive the ball is when it’s in motion.


Are soccer balls solid?

Another good question to ask is what state of matter a soccer ball can be classified as.

Well, the answer is actually quite simple.

Soccer balls are Archimedean solids because of the fact that they fall under the truncated icosahedron family.

They also tick some of the boxes for solid properties too, as they are fairly rigid and don’t flow like liquid substances such as water or oil.

If you want to do some further reading on this sub-topic, check out the informative article I recently wrote on why soccer balls feel hard.


Closing thoughts

Soccer balls are hollow inside as their internal structure resembles an empty shell. Although they are filled with air pressure, the vacant space is designed to help maintain the ball’s firmness and roundness when kicked.

Samuel Waihenya
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