HealthLife

The Mechanics of Movement

At Auburn University, a research team is currently studying how the body moves, particularly when it comes to sports. It’s called the science of Kinesiology, and researchers hope their findings on human movement in the lab can translate into practical ways to help athletes reduce their risk of injury and improve performance on the field. 

At Auburn University, a research team is currently studying how the body moves, particularly when it comes to sports. It’s called the science of Kinesiology, and researchers hope their findings on human movement in the lab can translate into practical ways to help athletes reduce their risk of injury and improve performance on the field. 

What exactly is ‘Kinesiology’? 

Kinesiology is the study of human movement, and how the body works as an efficient machine to perform desired tasks. Dr. Gretchen Oliver, director of the Sports Medicine and Movement Lab at Auburn University, describes the body as a kinetic chain, like “a rubber band man,” as if every segment of the body is connected by rubber bands, and every rubber band is the same tautness. 

“So any movement of the foot is going to alter all the other segments. Understanding the body as a kinetic chain (or rubber band man) allows us to better understand how movement efficiency is a total body activity,” Oliver said. “Understanding normal movement allows us to identify abnormal movement and provide the appropriate corrective strategies.” 

The Research 

Oliver and her team are currently studying the throwing mechanics of youth baseball pitchers and hoping to identify injury predictors and gain some insight into how mechanics can change as the pitchers age. “We have youth pitchers come in and throw a simulated game up to their age restricted pitch count,” she said. 

The team observes the range of motion and strength in a player’s hip and shoulder before and after the pitching session, as well as their throwing mechanics for the first and last inning of pitches, to determine if the mechanics change once the player fatigues. 

“We hope that this information can help us determine future injury predictors, as well as have an understanding of how mechanics change over maturity,” Oliver said. “Our primary focus is injury prevention and performance enhancement in youth. Ultimately, we want youth staying active and injury free.” 

The Findings 

Studies have found that a player’s range of motion and flexibility decrease over time if they don’t use the proper technique, putting them at greater risk for injuries. 

“We have found that after pitching a simulated game (up to age restricted pitch count), pitchers have a decrease in hip and shoulder range of motion,” Oliver said. “These decreases in range of motion are due to repetitive pitching.” 

It’s important to note that the loss in range of motion itself is not an injury precedent, but “if they do not regain back their range of motion prior to the next pitching outing, then that loss in range of motion could be a predictor of injury,” Oliver said. 

Oliver also notes that fatigue plays a major role in injury prediction. Experts advise that youth should not play all three seasons of a sport. “For youth to stay healthy, it is recommend that they only play two of three seasons,” Oliver said. She also warns that while many pitchers also play catcher, this practice is not recommended because playing a dual role does not allow the athlete adequate time to rest. 

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