Webster's defines biomechanics as "the mechanics of biological and especially muscular activity (as in locomotion or exercise)". Biomechanics is also a very interdisciplinary science, drawing on physics, engineering, biology and other areas.
Biomechanics has several specialties and is offered as a major course of study at most major universities including Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley and many other institutions with prominent science and technology programs.
Biomechanics has many applications relevant to the human body. Below are three of the more common subjects.
Clinical and Therapeutic applications
Clinical and Therapeutics applications not related to sports injuries includes a wide range of subjects related to the muscoskeletal system; including the mechanical consequences of growth and aging on to the familiar "crash dummy" that has revolutionized automobile safety.
Sports medicine is a broad area that covers the treatment and prevention of sports related injuries. Professional sports has obviously taken a huge interest in this area, especially given the large investment made in top tier athletes.
Performance enhancement is used by athletes of all types -- Olympic athletes, professional sports players, and avid amateurs all of whom want to perform better - jump higher, hit harder, run faster, etc.. Biomechanics is a new tool that often provides the performance edge this group wants, and it is allowing athletes to continue pushing the physical limits of the human body.
Many applications of biomechanics involve the use of computer models. These are often constructed with the aid of video technology to gather data about the subject body in motion. The video (often high speed video) is used to capture detailed information about the position of the body thru time, which in turn provides the data points needed to construct the computer model.
The computer model represents the physics of the subject body in mathematical formulas which run on the computer and simulate motion under real life scenarios and even extreme scenarios that might not be "real". In some applications the model results in the familiar "stick figure" which allows the researcher to manipulate and view the motion thru three-dimensional space. Try the stick figure here that represents a pole vaulter.
High Speed Video
Normal video is captured at approximately 30 frames per second. However, cameras are capable of capturing video at much faster speeds, up to 4000 fps and higher.
This can provide amazing input to biomechanical models and other scientific studies.
Notice how long the water retains the shape of the balloon after the balloon has disintegrated.
Biomechanics is a complex science based on the application of anatomy, physiology, physics, and engineering. It is widely recognized professional and academic circles and is offered as a course of study at many universities. Biomechanical studies often use mathematical models constructed with the help of computers and video technology. Biomechanics is playing an increasingly important role in advancing the areas of clinical therapeutics, sports medicine, and athletic performance management.
Next time we look at equine biomechanics, how the same science and technology is being applied to horses.
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