Human Kinetics & Its Relationship to Performance & Injury

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson, we will examine the role of human kinetics as it relates to both performance and injury. We will explore five major milestones in human kinetics, and we will also discuss the role of stretching and nutrition.

Human Kinetics

Human kinetics, also commonly referred to as biomechanics, is the study of a body's mechanics, mainly of the muscles, the skeleton, and their relationship to gravity.

Human Kinetics and Performance

The main way that human kinetics or biomechanics are involved with performance is in the ability to improve the technique of an athlete. The coach can:

  • Discover a more efficient way to perform a specific skill
    • Uses quantitative biomechanical analysis. Quantitative refers to data that uses numbers and involves accurate measuring to obtain results.
  • Correct the athlete's movements to improve his skills
    • Uses qualitative biomechanical analysis. Qualitative refers to data that is descriptive and may use names or symbols to express results.

Five Major Milestones in Human Kinetics

Through the development of new techniques, the field of human kinetics has produced some rather impressive moments in the world of sports, although they do not occur frequently:

  • In 1956, one example was of javelin thrower Felix Erasquin, who used an unconventional new technique in which he actually spun like a discus thrower. As it turns out, it worked so well the governing body of the sport decided to ban it.
  • In 1966, this also happened in golf when the legendary Sam Snead started using a new putting technique in which he turned his feet sideways to the hole. To this day, that putting method is illegal.
  • In 1968, Dick Fosbury changed the high jump forever when he jumped backward instead of forward. The move is still known to this day as the Fosbury Flop.
  • In 1971, two researchers discovered that pro swimmers were basically doing the freestyle incorrectly. They recommended a change in which the hand moved back in a different manner after the forward stroke. This technique is now widely taught across the world, and lap times have dropped dramatically.
  • Finally, in 1976, American Bill Koch introduced a revolutionary new technique to the world of cross-country skiing. Instead of skiing in the grooves made by other skiers, he sort of 'skated' by pushing his skis out further to the sides. This generated quite a bit more speed. Purists were outraged but in the end a clever compromise was struck, and both the old and the new methods were accepted. In the Winter Olympics, fans now get to watch athletes compete in both styles of skiing.

Classic Skiing Form

Human Kinetics and Injury

Ankle injuries

Have you ever gone up for a rebound in basketball and come down on another player's foot and twisted your ankle? Or have you ever chased after a field hockey pass and twisted your ankle as you tried to pivot? The forces of gravity and the muscles on the skeleton and the biomechanics involved in these movements are powerful. Ankle injuries are the most prevalent sports injury of them all and account for a whopping 16% of all sports injuries, or about one out of every six that occur each year. Besides the pain that comes with an ankle injury, there is also the frustration of having to wait one to two weeks for a minor sprain (grade one) or four to six weeks for a major sprain (grade two) to heal.

High Ankle Sprain

A high ankle sprain differs from a standard sprain. It is rarer but occurs above the ankle where it connects the fibula to the tibia. In some cases, the ligament can even be torn. The biomechanics involved here are also different. An ankle sprain is usually caused by a linear hit, but high ankle sprains tend to be caused more by rotational movements and torquing (twisting) of the muscle against the bone. Moreover, in extreme cases there can be an ankle fracture. Recovery takes about seven weeks or twelve weeks if there is a fracture.


In addition to ankle injuries a large portion of studies relating to biomechanics and injury focus on concussions and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy.) This encephalopathy is a form of brain damage that can literally cause the altering of an athlete's mental states. It is estimated that in America alone there are almost a staggering four million brain related injuries each year. Furthermore, there has been a great increase in the number of women injured while playing sports, especially ice hockey. The great majority of these four million injuries are mild, but, over time, repeated injuries may have a cumulative effect. This is why we are seeing an increase in famous athletes retiring early, often in their prime. Impacts to the head are in one way similar to ankle injuries in that they are generally either:

  • Linear - From a straight line hit
  • Rotational - Involve more of a torquing motion

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