By Paul DeVita, PhD
The International and American Societies of Biomechanics were founded in 1973 and 1977, respectively. Coincident with the expansion of Biomechanics during the following decades, fitness and health have moved out from under the realm of medicine and are rapidly overtaking the realm of the personal—the personal lifestyle to be more exact (think yoga, yogurt, and yoga pants). It is no coincidence that this trend has mirrored the increasing role of Biomechanics in our everyday lives as the evolving science has allowed us to see that sitting is the new smoking and that movement is our best option to maintain or get back to health.
And Biomechanics, the study of human movement, of how bones, tendons, ligaments, even cell components all work together, will inform every step of that journey. The world of Biomechanics today encompasses a host of activities that are necessary to keep life moving smoothly, but also to improve sport performance, enhance rehabilitation, correct gait, stabilize balance… all the pieces and parts of maintaining a healthy active lifestyle, no matter what age.
The good news is, biomechanists across the globe are using today’s latest technology to help improve patient outcomes and keep athletes safe. But imagine if more young people were aware of the field before they got to college? How much faster would the knowledge base spread if middle- and high-school students were made aware of what Biomechanics has to offer?
That was the stimulus behind the first National Biomechanics Day (NBD) in 2016 (aka, “The Early Year”). It began as a US-based initiative to expand the impact of Biomechanics on peoples’ lives. By 2017 (aka, “The Expansion Year,”), NBD had grown into an international celebration of Biomechanics. As of this date, 22 countries were expected to participate in NBD 2019. We think that, by introducing Biomechanics to high school students, a population largely under-exposed to Biomechanics science, we will be seeding larger numbers of future biomechanists and a larger biomechanical impact. Indeed, because Biomechanics education exists nearly entirely at universities, any exposure to younger people would bring new people to the field. Although it is too early to know if we will be successful in the long term, we certainly have created a foundation for success. From 2016 to 2018, NBD excited more than 20,000 young people and 800 teachers about Biomechanics science, application, and careers. “That’s a lotta kids,” as I like to say.
Still, why has NBD become such an astounding success so quickly? Is there some facet about NBD that entices biomechanists to not only join the initiative but to thrive in it and to enjoy it so fully? Certainly, many Biomechanics labs around the world conduct outreach services to show children and community leaders their science. Actually, many university departments beyond those housing Biomechanics programs conduct social outreach to the benefit of both the department and community. The participating departments benefit by increasing the popularity of their fields and their particular programs, and families benefit by learning about potential career opportunities for their children. These outreach events are wonderful for all involved. Yet, these demonstrations and events lack one element that is central to the NBD mission. NBD celebrates the broad field of Biomechanics beyond any individual lab, program, or university. National Biomechanics Day is enjoyed around the world because it is a unifying platform upon which we coalesce into one grand celebration of our science. NBD enables biomechanists to unite into a single synchronized, worldwide Biomechanics party. It is not any individual person, it is all of us…together: we all do it together and together we are the Heart of NBD. The outcome of our efforts is described by a single phrase, “Through NBD, there are more smiles on more faces, in more Biomechanics labs than on any other day.” Pretty cool.
Our expansion to more biomechanists and more high schoolers is paralleled by our expansion to more sponsors and supporters. We have 33 sponsors who provide financial assistance and promotional advertisements. For example, LER has published two articles on NBD and numerous photographs showing NBD events around the world. Our sponsors include many Biomechanics societies, instrument manufacturers, and commercial entities using Biomechanics to create their products and services. There is also an important idea we emphasize about our sponsors: They are not simply NBD sponsors, they sponsor nearly all events and activities that are Biomechanics. They sponsor Biomechanics societies, Biomechanics conferences, Biomechanics outreach events, and, not to be neglected, they hold their own Biomechanics events. They are us. Each individual company cannot sponsor everything Biomechanics, but many of them sponsor multiple Biomechanics entities. NBD is extremely grateful to all its sponsors and to all sponsors of Biomechanics. Without them, we could not conduct the science of Biomechanics as it is conducted now.
NBD and all NBDers are excited about the future of Biomechanics. We have from the start promoted the idea that Biomechanics will be the breakthrough science of the 21st century. We explained this position last year,1 but to briefly restate: First, Biomechanics has great, yet untapped value for society; it can help many people in many ways. While we know this, it has yet to make a major, commercial breakthrough that is fully within the public consciousness. Second, we also propose that while Biomechanics is largely unknown outside of Biomechanics, it is on the verge of great popularity. Many people know vaguely about 3D motion capture as the basis for video games and movies. Biomechanics is seen throughout social media and television, including regular shows but also commercials. It is seen in publications like LER, which increase the awareness of our science. People are also becoming aware of its application for improving sport performance. Still, it remains more unknown than known. Because Biomechanics will have a major impact on peoples’ lives and because it is on the verge of society’s awareness, we propose, through our efforts, that Biomechanics will be the breakthrough science of this century.
We encourage all biomechanists in all Biomechanics fields to join National Biomechanics Day and help us expand the many beneficial outcomes of the practice of Biomechanics.
Paul DeVita is one of two Leroy T. Walker Distinguished Professors or Kinesiology and Director, Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina. To learn more about NBD, contact him at email@example.com.
- DeVita P. Why National Biomechanics Day? J. Biomech. 2018;71:1-3.