What does it take to pull off the perfect header?

The best header of a ball in football history? The highest jumper? Better hang-time than an NBA basketball player?

Cristiano Ronaldo’s thunderbolt against Wales has attracted a great deal of scientific scrutiny assessing the mechanics of his prodigious leap.

The bald metrics: Ronaldo made contact with Raphael Guerreiro’s cross 8ft 7in (261cm) in the air.

He got 2ft 6in (76.2) off the ground. His time in the air was recorded at 0.85 seconds.

And the header flew in at 44.3mph (71.2kmph).

In 2011, Ronaldo’s physicality was put to the test at Chichester University in England for a biomechanics study shown on Fox Soccer Channel.

The experiment included a jump test which assessed the power in his leap.

It found Ronaldo’s standing jump to be no better than average for a footballer, despite his powerful thigh muscles. But when he could employ his arms and upper body strength for propulsion in a short run-up, Ronaldo was able to jump 78cm.

When he jumped, Ronaldo generated 5G of G-force on take-off, five times the power of a cheetah in full flight.

Dr Neil Smith, who supervised the tests, found that Ronaldo’s ‘hang-time’ was also above average, though the unique jumping technique he employed to rise above James Chester is also deceptive.

“When Ronaldo jumps high he tucks his knees and his legs up behind under his buttocks. This has the effect of raising the centre of gravity temporarily. This enables him to give this impression of hanging in the air, ready to head the ball toward the goal.”

The TV show concluded then that Ronaldo could jump higher than the average NBA basketball player, but how does he measure up to the best?

The available stats from last year’s NBA Combine attribute the highest vertical leap to Pat Connaughton, who sprung 44 inches (111cm) with a run-up.

Connaughton could manage 37.5 inches (95cm) from a standing start.

The Business Insider website claims LeBron James can climb to a maximum of 40 inches (101.6cm).

What about hang-time? The average time a human remains in the air after jumping has been measured at 0.53 seconds, but Michael Jordan has clocked a longest hang-time record at 0.92 seconds, leaping 108cm in the process.

Ronaldo would probably need to attack his corners on Venus to match that.

But football already considers him out of this world.

When Ronaldo scored with another incredible leap for Real Madrid against Manchester United at the Bernabeu in February 2013, Alex Ferguson remarked: “His kneecap was at the height of Evra’s head, even Messi can’t do that.”


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