Is it a good idea to imitate the performance of a tennis champion? Are there techniques that limit injury? What are the best techniques to teach tennis? Why should I teach tennis differently then the way I learned it? Open or closed stance? How many hours should you train a day?
We started by asking them both what biomechanics is and what a biomechanists does? We liked Duane's definitions from his home page. "Biomechanics is that great field that explains how living things move using the sciences of biology and mechanics. I am naturally interested in how external forces and muscles create human movement in sporting and exercise situations." He jokes that, "Biomechanists are nice people who are not sure if they are a biology, physics, engineering, electronics, or a computer science expert."
Paul summed it up, "For us (the USTA), biomechanics means sports technique analysis. In our case, a biomechanist is a scientist or researcher that studies human motion or sports performance." Paul told us there are also biomechanists that study human motion in industrial settings or work in "ergonomics". These biomechanists study equipment design in the workplace and focus on improving worker performance by reducing fatigue or discomfort. Duane added, "There are scientists that study animal and even plant biomechanics! For example, studies have been conducted on how a tree's structure develops or how fluid flows through a tomato."
Biomechanics is an "interdisciplinary field" combining several different sciences. Clearly, the human performance aspect of biomechanics requires a good understanding of anatomy (the science of the structure and parts of a living organism) or physiology (the biological study of the functions of living organisms). But biomechanics also includes the part of physics known as mechanics. Mechanics analyzes how forces affect objects both at rest (statics) and in motion (dynamics). Both internal and external forces create motion and so do a person's muscles. Putting it all together sports biomechanics is the study of how internal and external forces affect the motion and performance of the human body in an athletic endeavor. Wow! Lots of definitions!
Duane also pointed out today's biomechanist also needs to be knowledgeable and comfortable with the tools of the trade: math, computer science, and statistics.
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