What is Biomechanics?

BiomechanicsWhat is biomechanics? An interdisciplinary approach that combines biology, physics, engineering, mathematics and more, biomechanics is the study of the mechanics of anatomy and movement, including how internal and external forces affect those mechanics. It examines why a living organism is able to move the way that it does, as well as how injury or illness can cause changes in an organism's structure and movement patterns.

Understanding How it Works

As the Chicago Tribune describes in its review, "Biomechanics: The Machine Inside," an exhibit at Chicago's The Field Museum, takes an imaginative, hands-on approach to explaining what biomechanics is with displays that unmask the science and engineering principles behind natural structures. Examples include the way an egg's domed shape efficiently distributes force or how a cheetah's aerodynamic head and flexible spine contribute to its amazing speed. The exhibit also points out the way an understanding of biomechanics can inspire technological breakthroughs. It discusses how engineer George de Mestrel's examination of the burrs clinging stubbornly to his dog's fur led to the development of Velcro. It also reviews the way a logger's, Joseph Buford Cox, study of the C-shaped jaws of a longhorn beetle larvae, led to a better chainsaw blade. Today's biomechanists continue to examine natural structures and apply what they discover to innovative new technologies that improve the health and welfare of the general public.

Careers In Biomechanics

Biomechanists have many potential career routes, determined in part by their particular interests and their backgrounds. Many work in research facilities, crafting experiments that allow them to study topics like gait, ergonomics, strength and flexibility. Others concentrate on development and design for assorted sports companies; some of their innovations are discussed during coverage of major sporting events like the Olympics. Many biomechanists work as biomedical engineers, applying biomechanical principles to the study and development of medical information systems, instrumentation, care delivery systems, artificial organs, joint resurfacing and replacement, tissue engineering, prostheses, and other products designed to assist patients in their recovery period and their everyday lives.

Educational Requirements for a Career in Biomechanics

Typically, an individual needs to hold at least a master's degree to work professionally in the field of biomechanics. A doctoral degree in the area provides even more options. Fortunately for those intrigued by the subject, a growing number of colleges and universities around the globe now offer biomechanics programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. These programs generally include coursework on the biological sciences, kinesiology, engineering, physics, mathematics, medicine and computers. Labwork is also a vital component of any aspiring biomechanist's education. For those interested in studying biomechanics, the American Society of Biomechanics maintains a list of available graduate programs. The International Society of Biomechanics, the Canadian Society of Biomechanics and the International Society of Biomechanics in Sports also provide resources for students. Many of these organizations offer scholarships for students interested in traveling to other labs, conducting research or attending industry conferences like the World Congress of Biomechanics, a massive international biomechanics conference organized by the World Council of Biomechanics. Held every four years in rotating locations in the Americas, Europe and Asia, the congress draws attendees from around the world.

Related Resource: Orthopedic Bioengineering

Biomechanics is a fascinating, interdisciplinary field that continues to lead to the development of new understandings and new technologies. By researching the science behind natural structures and better understanding what is, biomechanics helps researchers see the potential of what can be.

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