Biomechanics is the study of the human body in motion. By applying principles from mechanics and engineering, biomechanists are able to study the forces that act on the body and the effects they produce (Bates, 1991). Hay (1973) describes biomechanics as the science that examines forces acting on and within a biological structure and the effects produced by such forces, whereas Alt (1967) describes biomechanics as the science that investigates the effect of internal and external forces on human and animal bodies in movement and at rest. Each of these definitions describes the essential relationship between humans and mechanics found in biomechanics. Kinesiology, the parent discipline of biomechanics, is a science that investigates movement. It can be divided into the mechanical and anatomical aspects of human movement. The mechanical aspects can be further subdivided into statics and dynamics. Statics is a branch of mechanics that investigates bodies, masses and forces at rest or in equilibrium. Dynamics investigates bodies, masses and forces in motion. Dynamics consists of temporal analysis, kinematics and kinetics. Temporal analysis uses time as the sole basis for analysis. Kinematics investigates motion without reference to masses or forces. Kinetics investigates the actions of forces in producing or changing the motion of masses.In the United States, the use of mathematical and mechanical principles to study human movement was initially called kinesiology; in Europe, it was called biomechanics (Nelson 1980). There has been considerable controversy over the years as to the correct name for this area of study. This controversy seems to have been settled with biomechanics as the most accepted term worldwide.
Biomechanics is a discipline. A discipline deals with understanding, predicting and explaining phenomena within a content domain. In biomechanics, movement is studied in order to understand the underlying mechanisms involved in the movement or in the acquisition and regulation of skill. The uniqueness of biomechanics as an area of study evolves not from the unique body of knowledge, but from the questions that are asked relative to understanding human movement (Bates 1991). Techniques and methods from other scientific disciplines, such as physics and engineering, are used to examine human movement. In this way, biomechanics involves mechanical measurements used in conjunction with biological interpretations (Higgins, 1985). Thus, biomechanics is a key area of study within the realm of exercise science.
The study of movement involves the explanation and understanding of the structural and functional mechanisms underlying human performance, in all its presentations, from fundamental motor skills to demanding exercise. Higgins (1977) proposed that skill is a movement that allows the organism to respond or act effectively within the environment and to integrate past and present. To become skillful requires mastery of the redundant degrees of freedom (Bernstein, 1967). These degrees of freedom or constraints are morphological, biomechanical, environmental, and task specific (Higgins, 1977). The study of these constraints is required in order to explain and understand the underlying mechanisms of movement. Thus, movement must be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective. Movement, as a very broad phenomenon, appears in many different forms: play, dance, sport, work and daily living activities. This is why a biomechanist cannot study meaningful questions without adequate preparation in areas such as motor control, physics, exercise physiology, and engineering
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