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What Is a Biomechanics Lab?

Erik J.J. Goserud
Erik J.J. Goserud

A biomechanics lab is a designated area associated with the testing, study, and analysis of biomechanical action. Biomechanics is a unique field that may be thought of as the merger of mechanical concepts and biological movement. Those working in biomechanics apply physical principles to the study of a biological system, more often than not the human body. The applications of biomechanics are broad, ranging from elite athlete performance to orthotic development. These processes could not be possible without the use of a biomechanics lab.

A biomechanics lab may exist in a variety of settings. These settings may range from private, such as a shoe company wanting to learn more about movement to develop a product, to academic, as is the case with a university owning a biomechanics lab for research and educational purposes. Most labs are set up similarly, although variation may exist depending on the specific aspects of biomechanics the lab aims to test. There are generally testing equipment, methods for data recording, and computational systems where technicians conduct data analysis. These labs may also contain offices where researchers work on conclusions or may even double as classrooms.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The human body is capable of many amazing feats, some of which require complex movements that are difficult to analyze. Experts in the field of biomechanics use their labs to learn more about movement and apply this knowledge toward positive initiatives. For example, a person who has trouble walking due to disorder or injury may benefit from biomechanics research. Perhaps a lab can create a new therapy strategy to improve his or her gait, hence increasing the quality of life.

Another applicable use of a biomechanics lab would be the testing of elite athletes. There are many sports in which the difference between becoming a champion and remaining an average performer is at the mercy of very small changes to technique. One such example is sprinting, where hundredths of a second can determine many races. A biomechanics lab may study the running technique of a sprinter to help him or her attain the most efficient stride possible. Trainers can then apply this knowledge in order to maximize performance.

The field of biomechanics obviously has many real-world implications. The advancement of this field depends on research for the acquisition of new knowledge. The place in which this research takes place is the biomechanics lab, and these unique places have uses beyond these parameters as well.

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