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'Biomechanicsis the application of mechanical principles to biological systems, such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells.[1] Perhaps one of the best definitions was provided by Herbert Hatze in 1974: "Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of the methods of mechanics".[2] The word biomechanics developed during the early 1970s, describing the application of engineering mechanics to biological and medical systems.[3] In Modern Greek, the corresponding term is εμβιομηχανική.[4]

Biomechanics is closely related to engineering, because it often uses traditional engineering sciences to analyse biological systems. Some simple applications of Newtonian mechanics and/or materials sciences can supply correct approximations to the mechanics of many biological systems. Applied mechanics, most notably mechanical engineering disciplines such as continuum mechanics, mechanism analysis, structural analysis, kinematics and dynamics play prominent roles in the study of biomechanics.

Usually biological system are more complex than man-built systems. Numerical methods are hence applied in almost every biomechanical study. Research is done in a iterative process of hypothesis and verification, including several steps of modeling, computer simulation and experimental measurements.

Sport biomechanics

In sports biomechanics, the laws of mechanics are applied in order to gain a greater understanding of athletic performance and to reduce sport injuries as well. Elements of mechanical engineering (e.g., strain gauges), electrical engineering (e.g., digital filtering), computer science (e.g., numerical methods), gait analysis (e.g., force platforms), and clinical neurophysiology (e.g., surface EMG) are common methods used in sports biomechanics.[5]

Continuum biomechanics

The mechanical analysis of biomaterials and biofluids is usually carried forth with the concepts of continuum mechanics. This assumption breaks down when the length scales of interest approach the order of the micro structural details of the material. One of the most remarkable characteristic of biomaterials is their hierarchical structure. In other words, the mechanical characteristics of these materials rely on physical phenomena occurring in multiple levels, from the molecular all the way up to the tissue and organ levels.

Biomaterials are classified in two groups, hard and soft tissues. Mechanical deformation of hard tissues (like wood, shell and bone) may be analysed with the theory of linear elasticity. On the other hand, soft tissues (like skin, tendon, muscle and cartilage) usually undergo large deformations and thus their analysis rely on the finite strain theory and computer simulations. The interest in continuum biomechanics is spurred by the need for realism in the development of medical simulation. [6]

Comparative Biomechanics

Comparative biomechanics is the application of biomechanics to non-human organisms, whether used to gain greater insights into humans (as in physical anthropology) or into the functions, ecology and adaptations of the organisms themselves. Common areas of investigation are Animal locomotion and feeding, as these have strong connections to the organism's fitness and impose high mechanical demands. Animal locomotion, has many manifestations, including running, jumping and flying. Locomotion requires energy to overcome friction, drag, inertia, and gravity, though which factor predominates varies with environment.[citation needed]

Comparative biomechanics overlaps strongly with many other fields, including ecology, neurobiology, developmental biology, ethology, and paleontology, to the extent of commonly publishing papers in the journals of these other fields. Comparative biomechanics is often applied in medicine (with regards to common model organisms such as mice and rats) as well as in biomimetics, which looks to nature for solutions to engineering problems.

Biofluid mechanics

Under most circumstances, blood flow can be modeled by the Navier-Stokes equations. Whole blood can often be assumed to be an incompressible Newtonian fluid. However, this assumption fails when considering flows within arterioles. At this scale, the effects of individual red blood cells becomes significant, and whole blood can no longer be modeled as a continuum. When the diameter of the blood vessel is slightly larger than the diameter of the red blood cell the Fahraeus–Lindquist effect occurs and there is a decrease in wall shear stress. However, as the diameter of the blood vessel decreases further, the red blood cells have to squeeze through the vessel and often can only pass in single file. In this case, the inverse Fahraeus–Lindquist effect occurs and the wall shear stress increases.


The main aspects of tribology are related with friction, wear and lubrication. When the two surfaces come in contact during motion i.e. rub against each other, friction, wear and lubrication effects are very important to analyze in order to determine the performance of the material. Biotribology is a study of friction, wear and lubrication of biological systems especially human joints such as hips and knees. For example, femoral component and tibial component of knee implant rub against each other during daily activity such as walking or stair climbing. If the performance of tibial component needs to be analyzed, the principles of biotribology are used to determine the wear performance of the implant and lubrication effects of synovial fluid. In addition, the theory of contact mechanics also becomes very important for wear analysis.


The study of biomechanics ranges from the inner workings of a cell to the movement and development of limbs, to the mechanical properties of soft tissue, and bones. As we develop a greater understanding of the physiological behavior of living tissues, researchers are able to advance the field of tissue engineering, as well as develop improved treatments for a wide array of pathologies.

Biomechanics is also applied to studying human musculoskeletal systems. Such research utilizes force platforms to study human ground reaction forces and infrared videography to capture the trajectories of markers attached to the human body to study human 3D motion. Research also applies electromyography[7] (EMG) system to study the muscle activation. By this, it is feasible to investigate the muscle responses to the external forces as well as perturbations.

Biomechanics is widely used in orthopedic industry to design orthopedic implants for human joints, dental parts, external fixations and other medical purposes. Biotribology is a very important part of it. It is a study of the performance and function of biomaterials used for orthopedic implants. It plays a vital role to improve the design and produce successful biomaterials for medical and clinical purposes.

Scientific journals


  1. R. McNeill Alexander (2005) Mechanics of animal movement, Current Biology Volume 15, Issue 16, 23 August 2005, Pages R616-R619
  2. Hatze, Herbert (1974). "The meaning of the term biomechanics". Journal of Biomechanics 7: 189–190. 
  3. Hall, Susan J. (1999) Basic Biomechanics. Boston: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
  4. Ελληνική Εταιρεία Εμβιομηχανικής/ Hellenic Society of Biomechanics
  5. Bartlett, Roger (1997). Introduction to sports biomechanics (1 ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. p. 304. ISBN 0-419-20840-2. 
  6. Fung, Y.-C. (1993). Biomechanics: Mechanical Properties of Living Tissues. New York: Springer-Verlag. p. 568. ISBN 0387979476. 
  7. Basmajian, J.V, & DeLuca, C.J. (1985) Muscles Alive: Their Functions Revealed, Fifth edition. Williams & Wilkins Publ.


  • Gurtin, M.(2003). An Introduction to continuum mechanics. San Diego, USA: Elsevier.
  • Totten, G., & Liang, H. (2004). Mechanical tribology. New York, USA: Marcel Dekker.

Further reading

External links

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