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What Is the Difference Between Kinesiology and Biomechanics?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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Biomechanics, the study of the mechanical processes of human movement, is an aspect of the larger field of kinesiology. The key difference between kinesiology and biomechanics is that one discipline is a subset of the other, focusing on specific topics of interest. Degrees are available in both subjects, often as part of departments that offer education in a number of other areas of kinesiology as well. These can include rehabilitation, sports, nutrition, and the neurological components of movement.

Researchers in kinesiology and biomechanics are interested in how people move, with a particular focus on adverse, challenging, and unique conditions. They also want to learn about what happens when movement goes wrong, and how injuries impact human movement. Their work contributes to activities like the development of rehabilitation programs for physical injuries, the identification of specific occupational markers associated with physical labor, and the creation of nutrition programs for athletes.

Within the field of biomechanics, the specific focus is on mechanical movement. This includes the articulation of joints and the participation of tendons and muscles in the coordination of physical activity. Understanding how humans move can be important for activities like developing realistic animations and accurate depictions in art, where a joint out of place can throw off an image even if viewers can’t consciously identify the problem. People with an interest in biomechanics may also be interested in the development of ergonomic systems to protect people at work and play by reducing the risk of injury.

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In kinesiology and biomechanics, researchers may study a variety of populations. These can include people with specific medical issues, to learn more about their pathology and develop better treatments for the future. Athletes are a common subject of research both because they can benefit from kinesiology and biomechanics research, and because their bodies provide interesting insight into the nature of human movement. Other subjects can include people like dancers or manual laborers, to understand how physical activity can impact the body.

Humans are not the only study subjects for kinesiology and biomechanics research. This is also a subject of interest in veterinary science, particularly for the treatment of animals like racehorses, who need to be in peak physical condition for demanding activities. An understanding of the mechanisms of animal movement, disease, and injury can help veterinarians provide more proficient care to their patients. It also allows care providers to make accurate estimates about outcomes with different kinds of treatments, which can be helpful for making decisions about how to proceed with care for injured animals.

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