Plastics on the pitch

Next FuturEnergia chat will take place on 19 June from 10-11 CET. The chat will aim at giving an understanding of how plastics have revolutionised sports in recent years. From tracks on which Olympic athletes pursue new records to shoes, clothing, safety equipments (helmets, kneepads) and stadium construction (water and drainage pipes, seats, roofing), modern sports heavily rely on plastics.

The chat will give teachers and students the opportunity to raise questions directly to Thomas Schmidt, a former Olympic champion in slalom canoeing. More information on the expert are available here.


Designers and engineers are constantly searching for ways to use fewer resources to deliver better performance. This requires developing new materials and new ways of combining materials in order to achieve better results. This has a variety of benefits across many different applications. In this chat we look at sports.

Sports is a field in which plastics make impossible things possible!
“Sports” is a very wide term. Perhaps you do not need plastics in sumo wrestling, but try to think of any other sport where you do need them! You need plastic components in your shoes for running, for your clothes, for your sails, for your swimming gear. The list is long and could go on and on.

As THOMAS SCHMIDT in his role of a former Olympic champion in slalom canoeing will be able to tell you, this is a sport where high performance materials are essential. You use plastic components in the actual canoe as well as in other gear such as the paddle and the helmet. Composite materials (i.e. substances that combine together two or more materials) are widely used. The weight of finished products that use this composite material can be 40% less than products made purely of metal.

Equipment made of plastics is used in nearly every type of ballgame these days. Think about football: the "leather ball" has not been made of leather for decades. A completely new concept has arisen for the production of footballs, known as "thermal bonding". This ensures consistent quality and performance, ball after ball. It is not only the ball that matters in football, think of the cones for the training sessions, the goal net or the goalkeeper’s shin pads.

Water sports and plastics have been partners for a long time. Sailing boats, sails and rigging, for instance, are made of polyester, polyamide or aramid (different types of plastics).

All these examples of plastics and sports are also connected with the field of aviation, another field in which plastics have made new highly-efficient equipment possible. In aviation, composite materials are being widely developed and used. Combining materials can generate superior results by exploiting the best characteristics of each material; for example, metal and plastic are often combined to give increased sturdiness and strength at a very light weight.

The chat will give teachers and students the opportunity to raise questions directly to Thomas Schmidt.

Students are encouraged to have a look at these questions in advance of the chat, do some background research, discuss in class and use these or other relevant questions when chatting with the expert.

Please see list of questions in this newsletter: 1-0 to Plastics: Newsletter on football (Euro2012) (pdf)

1-0 to Plastics: Newsletter on football (Euro2012) (pdf)
Plastics and football (pdf)
Use of plastics – Sports
Plastics in Olympic form