Introduction to Sports Biomechanics
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Introduction to Sports Biomechanics

Analysing Human Movement Patterns

Roger Bartlett

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eBook - ePub

Introduction to Sports Biomechanics

Analysing Human Movement Patterns

Roger Bartlett

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About This Book

Introduction to Sports Biomechanics provides a genuinely accessible and comprehensive guide to all of the biomechanics topics covered in an undergraduate sports and exercise science degree.

Now revised and in its second edition, Introduction to Sports Biomechanics is full of visual aids to support the text. Every chapter contains cross references to key terms and definitions from that chapter, learning objectives and summaries, study tasks to confirm and extend your understanding, and suggestions to further your reading.

Clearly structured and with many student friendly features, the text covers:

  • movement patterns – exploring the essence and purpose of movement analysis
  • qualitative analysis of sports movements
  • movement patterns and the geometry of motion
  • quantitative measurement and analysis of movement
  • force and torques– causes of movement
  • the human body and the anatomy of movement.

This editionis supported by a website containing animation and video clips, and offers sample data tables for comparison and analysis and multiple choice questions to confirm your understanding of the material in each chapter. Introduction to Sports Biomechanics is a must have for students of sport and exercise, human movement sciences, ergonomics, biomechanics, and sports performance and coaching.

Visit the companion website at:

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Movement patterns – the essence of sports biomechanics

Introduction 1
Defining human movements 3
Some fundamental movements 8
Movement patterns 35
Comparison of qualitative and quantitative movement analysis 36
Summary 40
Study tasks 40
Glossary of important terms 41
Further reading 42
Knowledge assumed
Familiarity with human movement in sport
Ability to undertake simple analysis of videos of sports movements


What were my reasons for choosing the title of this book and the name of this chapter? Well, after teaching, researching and consulting in sports biomechanics for over 30 years, my definition of the term has become, quite simply, ‘the study and analysis of human movement patterns in sport’.
Nothing about ‘the scientific methods of mechanics’ or ‘the effects of various forces’ or ‘Newton’s laws’ or vectors or…? No, nothing like that – just ‘the study and analysis of human movement patterns in sport’. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Indeed it is – a wealth of fascination. So, let us begin our journey.
Having offered my definition of sports biomechanics, it becomes obvious what sports biomechanists do – we study and analyse human movement patterns in sport. But why do we do it? Well, the usual reasons are:
• To help people perform their chosen sporting activity better. We should note here that this does not just apply to the elite athlete but to any sportsperson who wants to improve his or her performance.
• To help reduce the risk of injury.
From a pedagogical perspective, we might add:
• To educate new generations of sports biomechanists, coaches and teachers.
And, from a personal viewpoint:
• Because it is so fascinating. Yes, it is fascinating, otherwise so many of my generation would not still be doing it. It is also intellectually challenging and personally gratifying – if you can contribute to reducing an athlete’s injury risk or to improving his or her performance, it gives you a warm glow.
Most sports biomechanics textbooks, including the first edition of this one, have strongly reflected the mathematical, engineering or physics backgrounds of their authors and their predominant research culture. Hence, the mechanical focus that is evident, particularly in earlier texts, as well as a strong emphasis on quantitative analysis in sports biomechanics. However, over the last decade or so, the ‘real world’ of sport and exercise outside of academia has generated – from coaches, athletes and other practitioners – an increasing demand for good qualitative movement analysts. Indeed, I will often use the term ‘movement analyst’ instead of ‘sports biomechanist’ to reflect this shift from quantitative to qualitative analysis, and I will broaden the term somewhat, as will be apparent later. So, qualitative analysis is our main focus in this chapter –
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
• think enthusiastically about analysing movement patterns in sport
• understand the fundamentals of defining joint movements anatomically
• appreciate the differences – and the similarities – between qualitative and quantitative analysis of sports movements
• describe, from video observation or pictorial sequences, some simple sport and exercise movements, such as walking, running, jumping and throwing
• appreciate why breaking these movements down into phases can help simplify their description and later analysis
• be familiar with finding supplementary information – particularly videos – on the book’s website
• feel enthusiastic about progressing to Chapters 2 and 3.
and the next two. However, everything in these chapters is also relevant for quantitative movement analysts – you cannot be a good quantitative movement analyst without first being a good qualitative analyst.


In this section, we look at how we can define human movements, something to which we will return in more detail in Chapter 6. To specify unambiguously the movements of the human body in sport, exercise and other activities, we need to use an appropriate scientific terminology. Terms such as ‘bending knees’ and ‘raising arms’ are acceptable in everyday language, including when communicating with sport practitioners, but ‘raising arms’ is ambiguous and we should strive for precision. ‘Bending knees’ is often thought to be scientifically unacceptable – a view with which I profoundly disagree as I consider that simplicity is always preferable, particularly in communications with non-scientists. We need to start by establishing the planes in which these movements occur and the axes about which they take place, along with the body postures from which we define these movements. These planes, axes and postures are summarised in Box 1.2.
Various terms are used to describe the three mutually perpendicular intersecting planes in which many, although not all, joint movements occur. The common point of intersection of these three planes is most conveniently defined as either the centre of the joint being studied or the centre of mass of the whole human body. In the latter case, the planes are known as cardinal planes – the sagittal, frontal and horizontal planes – as depicted in Figure 1.1 and described below.
Movements at the joints of the human musculoskeletal system are mainly rotational and take place about a line perpendicular to the plane in which they occur. This line is known as an axis of rotation. Three axes – the sagittal, frontal and vertical (longitudinal) – can be defined by the intersection of pairs of the planes of movement, as in Figure 1.1. The main movements about these three axes for a particular joint are flexion and extension about the frontal axis, abduction and adduction about the sagittal axis, and medial and lateral (internal and external) rotation about the vertical (longitudinal) axes.
• The sagittal plane is a vertical plane passing from the rear (posterior) to the front (anterior), dividing the body into le...

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