Science plays a larger role in sport than most people realise. The structure and function of the human body including the principles of motion and force have led to field of sports science known as biomechanics. Almost all elite athletes and sports people utilise biomechanical principles when training, competing, or recovering from injury.
In simplified terms, biomechanics is the science of human movement. In a sporting context, biomechanics examines an athlete in relation to his or her environment and equipment. Forces acting on the body (kinetics) and movements of the body (kinematics) are analysed prior to mapping out an exercise, performance or recovery plan. The human body is a type of machine after all, and a mechanical appreciation of form and function can only enhance what we already understand.
Biomechanics are equally important in the non-athletic population. Much of the way a persons joints move and function is specific to that individual and is dictated by the shape of bones and the joint surfaces, tightness or laxity of surrounding soft tissue and the function of the muscles that control the joint. All of this is important when it comes to injury. If the biomechanics are a potential cause of injury then they need to be considered as part of the cure. For example if you change a worn out tyre thinking that is the problem, but don’t balance the wheel, then your new tyre is just going to wear out quickly too.
Biomechanic analysis and diagnosis
A personal evaluation is the first step toward optimum performance. Function can only be improved once limitations or dysfunctions are understood. A biomechanical assessment, as part of the diagnostic and treatment process, is essential to effectively treat sports and work related injuries. Additional factors such as sports equipment and environment are also taken into consideration. The concept of a person performing ‘like a well-oiled machine’ isn’t so far-fetched after all.
Biomechanics in sports injury
Biomechanic principles apply to all sports. Almost everything we do involves form and movement, at least to some degree, and sport is no exception. Here are just a few examples of when poor biomechanics can lead to injury:
- Cycling: bike setup and knee, ITB and back pain
- Swimming: body roll and shoulder pain
- Running: weak gluteal muscles and ITB friction syndrome, foot position and shin splints
- Cricket: fast bowling techniques and stress fractures of the back
- Crossfit: Poor hip range of motion and back pain with squatting
- Ballet: limited turnout position and hip, knee and back pain
Biomechanical principles apply to many other areas of the above sports and essentially in every sport. In fact, it becomes easy to appreciate the value of biomechanics for improving physical capabilities in every sphere of life.
Functional applications of biomechanics
Although biomechanics has revolutionised the sporting world, most athletes want to focus on just one or two problem areas. Functional biomechanics involves applying the principles in those areas requiring improvement. This can involve many applications, such as retraining a muscle group to mimic a sporting activity or movement, or developing processes to improve balance and poise.
Functional applications of biomechanics are applicable to all sports. Biomechanics has quickly become a valuable adjunct to sports medicine and science, and the results are best understood by watching our greatest sporting stars in action.
Sports and Exercise Medicine Physicians, Physiotherapists, Podiatrists and Exercise Physiologists are experts in biomechanical assessment in relation to injury and the integration of this analysis into a treatment plan. North Sydney Sports Medicine’s Podiatrist can also perform gait analysis and prescribe exercises and sports or general orthotics if required