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Does the age of a basketball affect how high it bounces?
Woodford MiddleSchool, Versailles, KY
Yes, the age of a basketball will affect how well the ball bounces. An old basketball may have very slowly leaked some of its air out and become flatter than a new one. The same thing happens to tennis balls over time -- you can check out the answer to the question Why do tennis balls lose their bounce?
An important difference between basketballs and tennis balls however is that you can reinflate a basketball to give it its bounce back. Then the question becomes, over time, will a basketball still degrade, and the answer is the inevitable yes, but it depends on what the basketball is made out of. Some basketballs have leather coverings (particularly older ones, and expensive new models too), and leather loses its flexibility over time because oils gradully evaporate and it dries up. The same is true for basketballs made of natural rubber -- they can become cracked and brittle after many years in the garage. Some basketballs are made of synthetic rubberlike and leatherlike composition materials which remain flexible quite a lot longer, but the professionals may complain that they are slippery, particularly when sweaty.
-Tamara and Tom
(republished on 07/11/06)
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