Biomechanics has been defined as the study of the movement of living things using the science of mechanics (Hatze, 1974). Mechanics is a branch of physics that is concerned with the description of motion and how forces create motion. Forces acting on living things can create motion, be a healthy stimulus for growth and development, or overload tissues, causing injury. Biomechanics provides conceptual and mathematical tools that are necessary for understanding how living things move and how kinesiology professionals might improve movement or make movement safer.
Most readers of this book will be majors in departments of Kinesiology, Human Performance, or HPERD (Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance). Kinesiology comes from two Greek verbs that translated literally means “the study of movement.” Most American higher education programs in HPERD now use “kinesiology” in the title of their department because this term has come to be known as the academic area for the study of human movement (Corbin & Eckert, 1990). This change in terminology can be confusing because “kinesiology” is also the title of a foundational course on applied anatomy that was commonly required for a physical education degree in the first half of the twentieth century. This older meaning of kinesiology persists even today, possibly because biomechanics has only recently (since 1970s) become a recognized specialization of scientific study (Atwater, 1980; Wilkerson, 1997).
This book will use the term kinesiology in the modern sense of the whole academic area of the study of human movement.
Since kinesiology majors are pursuing careers focused on improving human movement, you and almost all kinesiology students are required to take at least one course on the biomechanics of human movement. It is a good thing that you are studying biomechanics. Once your friends and family know you are a kinesiology major, you will invariably be asked questions like: should I get one of those new rackets, why does my elbow hurt, or how can I stop my drive from slicing? Does it sometimes seem as if your friends and family have regressed to that preschool age when every other word out of their mouth is “why”? What is truly important about this common experience is that it is a metaphor for the life of a human movement professional.