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What Is the Biomechanics of Movement?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
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  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Biomechanics of movement is an area of study and research based on applying the principles of mechanics to living, moving organisms. In particular, it examines the various forces and stresses involved in animal and human movement. Biomechanics of movement is usually focused on human movement with the intent of applying the knowledge obtained to athletics or to products relating to human biomechanics, such as shoes or climbing gear. Researchers in the area of biomechanics of movement may, for instance, attempt to discover the exact mechanisms by which various types of muscle, bone, and joint injuries occur. Such researchers need to focus both on human factors, such as muscular forces, individual gaits, and differences in bone and joint structure, as well as environmental factors, such as different types of terrain.

Techniques in the study of biomechanics of movement are most commonly applied to human athletics and medical problems relating to joints, bones, and muscles. In some cases, as in gait analysis, a researcher may merely record an individual walking, running, or performing some other activity and attempt to analyze the mechanics of his movements. More complex forms of athletic or therapeutic biomechanical studies may be based in nuanced measurement and mathematical modeling or in computer simulation. The goal of such methods is often to plot the use of muscular power and the distribution of impact shock.

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In some cases, research into the biomechanics of movement is aimed at developing new products, most notably athletic shoes. Many of the joint injuries that athletes commonly suffer from occur because of repeated shock absorption from impact with the ground. Shoe companies, particularly those that produce specialized athletic shoes, often attempt to design shoes to absorb as much of the impact shock as possible. Additionally, they tend to try to shape the shoes to ensure that the wearer's gait remains healthy and that the shoe does not lead to additional harmful muscle or joint strain.

The physical environment in which a given biomechanical action occurs is extremely important in the biomechanics of movement. Runners, for instance, may run on flat paved surfaces, on uneven trails, up hills, or in a range of other settings. These different settings all have different effects on the biomechanics of movement. This is important for athletes who may need to work on a variety of different terrains. Product designers must also take terrain into consideration, as products that positively affect the biomechanics of movement in one setting may have a deleterious effect in another.

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