What does a 2 psi difference in an official NFL Super Bowl football mean? Does it even matter? How can the NFL prevent Deflate-gate from happening again? ADMET drove down to Gillette Stadium to pick up an official Super Bowl football to find out.

Before we start, let’s break Deflate-gate down into four distinct categories; the issue, the cause, the implications and the solution.

The issue:

Various publications claim that over 90% of New England Patriots AFC Championship game balls were inflated to a pressure below the lower limit per the NFL rulebook.

The cause:

Speculation includes weather and tampering but as of yet the cause is unknown.

The implications:

  • The results from the AFC Championship gameFootballPressureGauge
    • Even if the Patriots vacated all the points from the first half, the game would have still been won 28-7.
  • The legacy of Tom Brady
    • The court of public opinion seems to be on the fence; will this tarnish his hall of fame career?
  • The integrity of the NFL
    • This is not the first public scandal this year; will this one put the results of the Super Bowl in question?

If we relate this to the manufacturing industry, root cause analysis must be complete prior to making any judgment. We at ADMET do not have the full process map for this scenario, but we can begin looking at the simple question, does it matter?

To explore this we set up a ball deflection scenario. That is, how much will a ball deflect in the palm of a hand while it is inflated to different pressures?

The football was inflated to four pressures; 13.5, 12.5, 11.5 and 10.5 psi and was compressed using an ADMET eXpert 2611 equipped with MTESTQuattro and a 3.75 inch diameter platen. The platen diameter is a little larger than the average male palm. We then exerted a 100 pound force and subsequently 200 pound force on each football, replicating the force that football could experience in the hands of an NFL player. It should also be noted these tests were run at room temperature in a lab, weather could affect the results.

The outcome is shown below.


The data reveals that there is a 0.097 inch difference between a 12.5 psi football and a 10.5 psi football. That doesn’t seem like very much of a difference. Will less than 0.1 inches provide a competitive advantage? This is roughly the thickness of 2 dimes stacked on top of each other. Provide your thoughts below.

The Solution:

Regardless of the result, any organization would want to put measures in place to avoid something like this from happening again. This adheres to the Japanese lean manufacturing philosophy Poka-Yoke or “mistake-proofing”.  Material testing is a very powerful tool for error proofing a process. As has been shown with the AFC Championship game, the time, location and procedure of testing are all key to obtaining to desired result in the situation.

When was the last time you checked your process?

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