What’s Sports Biomechanics?

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Biomechanics studies the human body in a physical way similar to a mechanic studying a vehicle. Sports biomechanics analyzes body movement during sports to improve performance or prevent injury. It encompasses physics, anatomy, and physiology and can be applied to healthcare and sports. Sports biomechanics professionals focus on injury prevention and performance, analyzing physical actions in film and laboratory settings to find disparities in performance and injuries. They may find that an athlete generates more force due to a more efficient gait, but also applies too much force to ligaments, explaining differences between elite athletes.

Biomechanics is the study of the human body in a physical way analogous to the way a mechanic would study a vehicle. Because the human body is far more complex than most machines, this field requires a large amount of knowledge that overlaps multiple disciplines. Sports biomechanics is the study of body movement during sport. Scientists can use biomechanics to help athletes improve performance or avoid injury.

A multidisciplinary science, biomechanics encompasses principles of physics, anatomy, and physiology in the study of the forces and movements of the body. The applications of this field are many. These range from healthcare, in helping an amputee find the most effective and efficient prosthesis, to sports biomechanics, which can involve fine-tuning the stride of an elite sprinter to shave 0.01 of a second off the runner’s time .

Sports biomechanics professionals are typically concerned with one of two subcategories: injury prevention and performance. This group of scientists analyzes the particular movements of a particular sport to find clues about what makes some athletes superior to others. They also study why some athletes are prone to injury, while others seem to last a lifetime.

There are a number of factors involved in the analytical side of sports biomechanics. An example involving sprinters will help illustrate. Sprinter A will represent a faster individual who is more prone to injury. Sprinter B will embody a less successful sprinter who has yet to suffer a threatening injury.

In order to deduce the reasons for the disparities in performance and injuries between the two athletes, their physical actions in the sprint will likely be analyzed in film and laboratory settings. The film provides a repeatable visual cue that can be sped up or slowed down and viewed as many times as needed. Laboratory observations can provide specific data regarding force distribution, efficiency, and other useful measurements.

In this example, sports biomechanics professionals may find that athlete A is able to generate more force against the ground during the short interval in which the sprint is completed. It may be found that this is due to a gait being used more efficiently than Athlete B’s running style. Athlete A, however, may in turn be applying too much force to the ligaments in the legs, which are prone to injury , explaining the differences between these elite athletes. This type of insight would not be possible without the world of sports biomechanics.

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