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Biomechanical Engineering: What is Biomechanics?

By: Kerry L. Knapp, Ph.D.
Northstar Biokinetics

Tel: 928-779-9621
Email Dr. Kerry Knapp

The discipline of biomechanics integrates the laws of physics and the working concepts of engineering to describe the motion of various body segments and the forces acting on these segments. Injury biomechanics then couples the knowledge of force and motion with a thorough understanding of functional human anatomy, human biomechanics and human tissue mechanics to explore the possible relationships between external events and human tissue injury.

Newtonian mechanics, structural and functional human anatomy, human physiology and injury biomechanics including a knowledge of human soft and hard tissue tolerances form the basis for the discipline.

At Northstar Biokinetics, Inc. we add to the mix our analytical skill and broad-based life experiences. These important factors enable us to apply our education and expertise with biomechanics to a wide variety of situations where the relationship between human motion, external events (or objects) and human tissue damage are of interest. Finally, we bring the ability to effectively communicate the results of analysis in the courtroom.

Biomechanics as a Recognized Discipline

Biomechanics is a scientific discipline which is concerned with our own biological functioning as well as the biological functioning of other species. Human biomechanics focuses on the mechanics of the human system rather than the physiological or biochemical function of humans. However, physiological functioning and biochemical tissue properties are many times important considerations within the discipline of biomechanics.

Human biomechanics research addresses a broad range of topics related to human mechanics. Studies include examining the mechanical function of muscles, connective tissue, cartilage, skin, nerves, bones, joints, and internal organs. Biomechanics research also includes research that is focused on human movement and performance wherein the internal and external forces, moments/torques that produce movement are examined, for example, movement during an automobile accident. Further, biomechanics also addresses internal and external loading and overloading which may sometimes lead to injury of biological tissue(s) or organs. Finally, biomechanics research also includes projects such as the mechanical heart, joint resurfacing and replacement, as well as new work in tissue engineering, and in the development of biomaterials.

During the 20th century, biomechanics developed from a relatively obscure area of study to a widely recognized professional discipline. As we enter the 21st century, biomechanics is a professional area of study, with university graduate programs in over 85 universities in the United States and Canada. Additionally, many more universities offer biomechanics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels as a part of other degree- focus areas (exercise science and engineering, for example). Today thousands of biomechanics scientists are working in universities, institutes and industries throughout the world. The discipline's professional organization, the American Society of Biomechanics, has a large membership made up of biomechanics researchers in such diverse areas as general biological science, exercise science, engineering, medicine, applied physics, health sciences, and human factors/ergonomics.

Dr. Kerry Knapp has a strong educational and experience-based background. Educationally he is grounded in physical sciences, engineering, and computer modeling with bachelors and master degrees. His doctoral work, which was focused on analytical techniques, provides the theoretical for Northstar Biokinetics rigorous analytical process while recent studies and research in human functional anatomy, physiology, human neuroscience and human biomechanics form the basis for current case analysis work in injury biomechanics. Broad personal experiences in the areas of aviation, boating, sports, agriculture, and construction add experience-base understanding to all aspects of case analysis.

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