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What Is Sports Biomechanics?

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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
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  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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Biomechanics is the study of the human body in a physical fashion that is analogous to the way a mechanic would study a vehicle. As the human body is much more complex than most machines, this field requires a great deal of knowledge overlapping multiple disciplines. Sports biomechanics is the study of the body's movement during sporting activities. Scientists may use biomechanics to help athletes improve performance or avoid injury.

A multidisciplinary science, biomechanics encompasses principles of physics, anatomy, and physiology in studying the forces and movements of the body. The applications of this field are varied. They range from health care, in helping an amputee find the most effective and efficient prosthetic, to sports biomechanics, which may involve honing the gait of an elite sprinter to shave off 0.01 of a second off the racer's time.

Professionals in sports biomechanics are generally concerned with one of two subcategories: injury prevention and performance. This group of scientists analyzes the particular movements of a given sport for clues about what makes certain athletes superior to others. They also study why certain 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 to illustrate. Sprinter A will represent a faster individual who is more prone to injury. Sprinter B will embody a less successful sprinter who is yet to experience any threatening injury.

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In order to deduce the reasons for the performance and injury disparities between the two athletes, their physical actions in sprinting will likely be analyzed in film as well as in laboratory settings. Film gives a repeatable visual cue that may be sped up or slowed down and viewed as many times as necessary. Laboratory observations may yield specific data related to force distribution, efficiency, and other useful measurements.

In this example, the 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 could be discovered that this is due to a gait that is more efficiently utilized than athlete B's running style. Athlete A, however, may also in turn apply too much force to the ligaments of 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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anon209488
Post 5

@Matthew: You are correct in saying that sports biomechanics is useful for analyzing pitching, but realize that it is not specific to baseball. There are a number of sports and motions which fall under the broad categorizing umbrella that comprises sports biomechanics.

matthewc23
Post 4

@Izzy78 - I understand your point but sports bio-mechanics is still a rather new field of study and is only one thing that can be used to help prevent arm injuries for pitchers.

A former pitcher, Mike Marshall, through studying sports bio-mechanics, claims that he knows the perfect pitching motion that prevents all arm injuries besides a simple sore arm. The pitching motion that he prescribes is very radical than normal pitching motions of the past and it is to be seen whether or not he is right in his beliefs.

The fact is, no one knows when they will have an arm injury and even the most mechanically solid pitcher can throw a bad pitch and have their arm ruined

. Sports bio-mechanics can help in studying pitchers arms but what can also help is simple knowledge of the game and pitching, which has been around for over one-hundred years.

The way I see it is that sports bio-mechanics is just a scientific way to approach looking at pitchers arms as opposed to using human judgment, based off of experience pitching, and the understanding through knowledge of the game of what effects there are on a pitchers arm over time.

Izzy78
Post 3

Today, in baseball, there are a lot more off-speed pitches thrown, which puts incredible wear on the arm. This point, as well as the fact that pitchers are simply throwing harder than in the past means that pitchers are more prone to serious arm injuries. By putting a scientific approach behind studying the individual pitchers movements with their pitches they can gauge the limits one's arm could take in their pitches, as well as what movements they need to know not to make.

One mechanically horrible throw could end a pitchers career with the amount of torque put on their arms and this is where the study of Sports bio-mechanics could help determine what movements to be weary of and what adjustments could be made to prevent massive injury from occurring.

jmc88
Post 2

@TreeMan - I agree with you completely. There is way too much money on the line with these athletes for the owners to take chances with. This is why Sports Bio-mechanics is in so much demand.

One particular area that sports bio-mechanics plays a major role in is with pitching in baseball. Pitching has changed over the years and there are a lot more hard throwers than pitch to contact pitchers, thus there is much more wear on their arms. Sports Bio-mechanics helps to study the pitcher's body to see how they can prevent injury and further their careers.

TreeMan
Post 1

In today's sports world, where professional athletes make millions based off of their physical performance, sports bio-mechanics has become a major field of study that is in high demand.

Since athletes are, bigger, faster, and stronger than in the past, and the fact that there is a lot more money on the line in their performance on the field it is necessary to study the human body in order to best figure out how much an athlete can give and how susceptible they are to injury and how it can be prevented.

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