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INTRODUCTION

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After completing this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Define the terms biomechanics, statics, dynamics, kinematics, and kinetics, and explain the ways in which they are related.

  • Describe the scope of scientific inquiry addressed by biomechanists.

  • Distinguish between qualitative and quantitative approaches for analyzing human movement.

  • Explain how to formulate questions for qualitative analysis of human movement.

  • Use the 11 steps identified in the chapter to solve formal problems.

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Learning to walk is an ambitious task from a biomechanical perspective. Ariel Skelley/Getty Images.

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Why do some golfers slice the ball? How can workers avoid developing low back pain? What cues can a physical education teacher provide to help students learn the underhand volleyball serve? Why do some elderly individuals tend to fall? We have all admired the fluid, graceful movements of highly skilled performers in various sports. We have also observed the awkward first steps of a young child, the slow progress of an injured person with a walking cast, and the hesitant, uneven gait of an elderly person using a cane. Virtually every activity class includes a student who seems to acquire new skills with utmost ease and a student who trips when executing a jump or misses the ball when attempting to catch, strike, or serve. What enables some individuals to execute complex movements so easily, while others appear to have difficulty with relatively simple movement skills?

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Although the answers to these questions may be rooted in physiological, psychological, or sociological issues, the problems identified are all biomechanical in nature. This book will provide a foundation for identifying, analyzing, and solving problems related to the biomechanics of human movement.

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BIOMECHANICS: DEFINITION AND PERSPECTIVE

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The term biomechanics combines the prefix bio, meaning "life," with the field of mechanics, which is the study of the actions of forces. The international community of scientists adopted the term biomechanics during the early 1970s to describe the science involving the study of the mechanical aspects of living organisms. Within the fields of kinesiology and exercise science, the living organism most commonly of interest is the human body. The forces studied include both the internal forces produced by muscles and the external forces that act on the body.

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Courses in anatomy, physiology, mathematics, physics, and engineering provide background knowledge for biomechanists.

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biomechanics

application of mechanical principles in the study of living organisms

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Anthropometric characteristics may predispose an athlete to success in one sport and yet be disadvantageous for participation in another. (Both photos) Royalty-Free/CORBIS.

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Biomechanists use the tools of mechanics, the branch of physics involving analysis of the actions of forces, to study the anatomical and functional aspects of living ...

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