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The Science of Sweeping

Haaaarrrrd

I’m no expert, this being my second season of league play, but it doesn’t take long to realize that sweeping matters.  Being a scientist by profession, I have done some reading into the finer points of sweeping and most articles give the same general advice.  Get your weight over the broom, keep your strokes even, apply varying degrees of pressure proportional to the urgency of your skip’s pleas.  This is all good advice, but one aspect that is back up for debate is the positioning of the broom head.

Biomechanical engineer Tom Jenkyn was hired by the Canadian government to study sweeping for the two years leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics.  His findings helped lead the Canadians to a gold for the men and a silver for the women.  The following excerpt from cbc.ca, which discusses his work, makes an interesting point

They did not know everything. Two competing schools of thought exist concerning the positioning of the broom head in relation to the rock when sweeping.

The old school method is to position the broom at a 45-degree angle to the stone. The new school, which has emerged in recent years and is being preached by curling coaches far and wide, involves having the broom perpendicular to the rock face — and sweeping back and forth.

“We discovered that the new school method wasn’t very effective,” Jenkyn says.

The old school technique heats the ice in a uniform manner, where the new school method produced a mash of hot and cold patches, negatively impacting the rock’s flight path.

“With the old school technique, the rock sees the same temperature the whole way down the ice, which we found made the shots not as long, but much more consistent,” Jenkyn says.

A little something to think about next time you hit the ice.

Want more sweeping?  Watch this: