While watching sports, have you ever stopped (midway through a bowl of Cheetos) to wonder how far are those guys are actually running? It's a common question, one that's historically been subject mostly to guesswork, Thanks to some recent technological developments, we can now actually apply some data to it. So which of your heroes are putting in the hard yards?
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There's an old wives' tale that the average NBA player will run 8km every game. Not quite. Many NBA teams have started using a system called SportVU, a specialised motion-tracking system that enabling teams to get far more detailed stats about their players. In the 2012 season, the player that ran the farthest per game was Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls, who averaged 4.4km every time out. That's no where near the 8km myth, but it's still very impressive considering how much of that is sprinting.
Football players have an expansive 100-yard field, and spend hours moving up and down it. So it would seem like they do a lot of running. That's true enough -- while the ball is in play. But according to the Wall Street Journal, players are only actually moving for 11 minutes on average during an NFL game. Only 11 minutes of action! The rest is mostly standing around, with the occasional momentum-killing penalty review thrown in for good measure.
Kinda breaks the heart, doesn't it? Again, turning to a chart over at SportVU, it seems that even the players that run the most (cornerbacks and wide receivers, generally) only run about 2km per game. That said, some of them are reaching speeds of 35km/h per hour, which is scary fast for dudes that size.
How far you run in tennis depends on what style of game you play. Some players stay close to the back line and move back and forth a lot, some games only go three sets, some go five, etc. Tennis has been keeping track of running stats for quite a while now though, and you often seen those number during TV broadcasts.
It's not uncommon for a player to run more than 5km during a five-set match, although, in more extreme cases, players have run more than 8km. That is particularly impressive when you consider how tiny a tennis court is (8m wide for singles). We're talking about hundreds (maybe thousands) of sharp directional changes. Makes the knees scream just thinking about it. This image is from the final set of the final match of the 2012 Australian Open. The distances covered (bottom right) is for the entire tournament. That's spread out over seven matches, but keep in mind that most of those matches only lasted three sets.
Ah-hahahahaha. Seriously? C'mon, cut it out. Most baseball players won't run 100m during the course of a game, unless you count the slow trot on and off the field between innings. The bases are only 27m apart, so even if you hit three homers in a game, that's only 330m. Even if an outfielder did that and chased balls like crazy on defensive he probably wouldn't break half a mile. Nobody measures how far baseball players are running, because nobody cares and the answers would likely just be embarrassing.
This shouldn't surprise anyone who's played the game, but soccer players run their balls off. Games last 90 minutes, they have a large field (between 90m and 120m long, and 45m to 1100m wide), the ball is constantly in motion and may travel great distances in a matter of seconds, requiring the players to give chase. Obviously, there is some variation depending on the position they play -- midfielders run the most; the goalie not so much -- but it's not uncommon for a player to average 11km per game. SportVU has tracked players running as much as 15km in a game.
So, if someday you find yourself betting on an inter-sport half-marathon, the smart money is on the soccer player. Those guys have some serious endurance chops. In contrast, I guess we know why baseball is the American pastime. Whatever, pass the Pringles.