Football officially is back.
Like most people in Cleveland, I'm excited for the Browns season because it finally looks as if the team has its act together. But beyond the NFL, football has some deep-rooted history in Ohio and if you don't believe me just check out almost any local high school on Friday night. If it's quiet, it's because the team is playing a road game.
People here love football, and since the state is also home to the rubber capital of the world, it's only natural the two paths would intersect.
I'm hardly the first person to mention this, but the balls used by the NFL and the NCAA are made right here in Ada, Ohio. My former colleague, now an RPN contributor, Jennifer Karpus-Romain got to tour the Wilson football plant in 2015 for a story. She found that footballs can't function without rubber and plastics because the polyurethane-based bladder is one of the most important components.
As of 2018, the plant finishes 3,000 balls per day, which take anywhere from three to five days to produce. And, unlike the Patriots, the plant makes sure that the balls are inflated to exactly 13 PSI before leaving the factory.
Rubber-related compounds also are pushing advancements in safety. Polyurethane shells are being developed to reduce the impact when making contact on the field. And there's even an Ohio-based firm that's developed a hedgehog-inspired helmet design that could help reduce head injuries even further.
As reported by our sister publication Crain's Cleveland, the company Hegemon investigated what animals had qualities to absorb impacts to the head and body. Researchers were surprised that hedgehogs had such qualities, discovering that they escape predators and other tight situations by curling into a tight ball and falling from trees. Their quills serve as a shock absorber and leave them uninjured after they hit the ground.
These are just a few ways rubber polymers are inspiring advancements in football. So the next (or, in my case, first) time your fantasy team scores a touchdown, remember, that ball was made in Ohio with Akron's most famous polymer.
Chris Sweeney is an avid sports fan, but don't ask him for fantasy football advice unless you're playing to lose. Follow him on Twitter @CSweeneyRPN.