There has been a rising demand on expanding human understanding and knowledge of biomechanics. Many scientists specializing in different fields of science – biology, kinesiology, engineering, and physics, are interested in studying biomechanics. According to Knudson (2007), biomechanics is becoming more interesting because people marvel at the ability and beauty of human and animal movement.
In the world of sports, biomechanics has been applied greatly because of its ability to analyze sports movements in order to decrease the athlete’s risk to certain injuries and improve their overall performance. But this does not apply in sports exclusively. Our understanding of biomechanics is needed for our daily activities. As humans, we are not immune to injuries and we are not at all times in our maximum performance. Biomechanics is essential to know how forces can create our movement and how this can affect our performance.
The science of improving our performance involves neuromuscular skills, physiological capabilities, cognitive abilities and anatomical factors. Of course, it is hard to go through all of these. Well, biomechanics offer a simplified understanding onto how we can improve our performance by understanding the science of our movements.
Most professionals prescribe the use of techniques and instructions of biomechanics in improving performance. According to Knudson (2007), biomechanics is most useful in improving the performance of an athlete through improving the technique rather than relying on physiological capacity and physical built. Therefore, human movement is the most important contributor to performance.
According to a study, a coach was observing a gymnast in which the coach noticed that the gymnast poorly performed the angle of takeoff from the round-off and body arch. Prior to that, the gymnast has problems with her back handspring, although, the gymnast is physically fit and has a perfect built for the sport. The coach decided to improve her techniques. The coach’s background with biomechanics helped him instruct the gymnast on working on her “arch” following the round-off which resulted in the improved performance of the gymnast.
Another example is a coach observing another gymnast completing a double somersault in the floor exercise. In order to improve the gymnast’s performance, the coach suggested jumping higher, tucking tighter and swinging her arms vigorously before takeoff. Based on the principles of biomechanics, jumping higher allows the gymnast to have access to more air in completing the somersault. Tucking tighter promotes faster rotation because the angular momentum is being conserved. Lastly, swinging the arms more vigorously generates more angular momentum.
Teachers and coaches are encouraged to learn biomechanics. It will help them to correct actions of the athletes in executing the skills and acts perfectly. According to Peter McGinnis in his book Biomechanics of Sports and Exercise, coaches can use qualitative biomechanical analysis in everyday teaching to improve the technique of the athletes, resulting in better performance. It will also allow them to discover new techniques.
Another way in which biomechanics can help in improving performance is integrating it in exercise and conditioning programs. Biomechanics was used by experts in developing exercise programs and training devices to improve performance. Strength and conditioning professionals apply the principle of biomechanics in training athletes. Biomechanics research also leads to the development of new techniques.
One popular research of biomechanics that changed the sport of swimming was the study done by Ronald Brown and James “Doc” Counsilman in 1971. They indicated that the lift forces acting on one hand as it moved through the water is the key in propelling a swimmer through the water. Thus, instead of pulling the hand in a straight line backward, the swimmer should move his or her hand back and forth to produce propulsive life and drag forces. This technique in swimming has dramatically improved the way swimmers should swim through the water.
Other examples were new techniques discovered in improving javelin throwing, high-jumping, and cross-country-skiing, among others.
Preventing and Treating Injury
Biomechanics is also useful in promoting movement safety and injury prevention. Sports injury and medicine professionals studied the cases of injuries endured by athletes to know and identify what caused the injuries and how to prevent them. They have found out that the application of biomechanics can help in reducing the risk of the athletes from getting injuries. According to Knudson (2007), biomechanics provide knowledge on the mechanical properties of tissues, muscles, and bones that will help coaches and trainers in providing preventive measures and rehabilitative therapies.
According to Boden, Griffin & Garret (2000), female athletes are more vulnerable to anterior cruciate ligament injuries than males. The primary factor that these researchers attribute to the injury is biomechanical factors. Thus, they continued integrating biomechanics in sports medicine and therapy to find out why female athletes are more at risk of this type of injury.
Moreover, occupational therapists and surgeons use biomechanics in devising equipment that will prevent the onset of injuries not just to athletes, but to everyone. Specially-designed running shoes have been developed through the principles of biomechanics. Further, the invention of helmets for motorcycle riders was based on biomechanics. Researchers studied auto accidents and applied biomechanical testing. Thus, they designed helmets to protect the important parts of the head during a collision or accident.
On the other hand, severe accidents that result to body deformities or worst the amputation of certain parts can be addressed through biomechanics. To allow humans to continue its function in walking or moving their arms, they devised prosthetics. Prosthetics followed mechanical properties which match the movement of the human body. Because of prosthetics, disabled individuals are now able to function very well.
Other applications of biomechanics in preventing and treating injury include forensic biomechanics and orthotics. Forensic biomechanics specialize in reconstructing the origin of injuries from basing it to accidental accounts and measurements. On the other hand, biomechanics aid in the development of assistive devices or orthotics. Orthotics are objects that are used to support or correct deformities in the body, including joints. Orthotics may come in braces and large assistive devices like canes or walkers. Moreover, biomechanics help therapists in performing rehabilitative exercises.