What is Kinesiology? Listen to our show to to find out. Our guests are Western Washington University (WWU) Biomechanics Professor Dr. Jun San Juan & owner of Pure Fitness Martial Arts in Bellingham, WA, Kru Brooke.
We discuss common injuries, how to avoid them and body alignment. This episode was recorded in WWU Digital Media Center and video will be available soon.
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>>Here we go!
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? Molecules, spontaneous combustion, pow
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Dr. DeGraaff: Welcome to Spark Science, where we explore stories of human curiosity. Today we’re going to talk about kinesiology. If you don’t know what that is, that’s okay. Stay with us. We will talk with martial arts expert Kru Brooke and Western associate professor of biomechanics Jun San Juan. Welcome everyone.
Kru Brooke: Thank you.
Dr. San Juan: Thank you.
Dr. DeGraaff: I’m here with my cohost Jordan Baker, improv entertainer and home inspector. How’s it going?
Jordan Baker: Good!
Dr. DeGraaff: Fellow Lyndanite, which is also Brook here– Kru Brook, and you have a Lynden connection.
Jordan Baker: We’re loosely affiliated.
Dr. DeGraaff: We’re here to talk about kinesiology. Before we get into the details, let’s just go over some definitions. Jun, would you tell us a good definition of kinesiology, which is on your shirt there?
Dr. San Juan: I know, it is. Kinesiology is the study of human motion. There’s different facets of it, and there’s different specializations, and biomechanics of one of them. So, we talk about exercise physiology, motor control– we’re looking at the whole body, as an organism, and how it would move and how we can prevent injury and help individuals.
Dr. DeGraaff: We’re gonna talk a lot about common injuries, so I’m gonna let Kru Brook talk about– I’m gonna says what do you do, and what kinds of common injuries come up in your work?
Kru: Well, I’m the owner of a martial arts school in Bellingham. It’s Pure Fitness Martial Arts.
Dr. DeGraaff: And it’s where?
Kru Brooke: It’s at 1801 Ellis Street, kitty corner from Keith Cox Autobahn. So what we teach is Muay Thai (Thai boxing), and we also teach children and boot camps as well, for people who are not interested in learning martial arts that just want to work on strength and their body, and helping themselves get more fit. We teach kids, we teach adults, and I’m proud to say that my oldest student is 84 years old. I got a chance to do a private lesson with her and her husband whose 73 today. That’s kind of what we do!
Jordan Baker: That’s awesome.
Dr. DeGraaff: So what are the common injuries that you see, that maybe we’ll talk more about later, but just as a preview, what are the most common injuries when you practice martial arts?
Kru Brooke: Well, when people first start training martial arts, their previous injuries come out in their training. So, what we try to do is get people to move balanced in their body (their left and their right, their legs, their upper and their lower), and trying to get everything to work together. A lot of previous injuries surface in doing everyday activities. Some of the common injuries we see with someone who has gotten more fit when they’ve become more strong would be muscle pulls, their nutrition is not necessarily up to snuff that week and they accidentally roll an ankle, or they hit a pad or bag incorrectly and they strain their wrist. Those are pretty common.
Jordan Baker: So if you like eat a hot pocket or something one day instead of a salad you could roll an ankle?
Kru Brooke: Progressively, over time yes.
Jordan Baker: Hot pockets.
Dr. DeGraaff: Thank you Jordan. That’s the first thing I thought. Rolling an ankle is associated with bad eating?
Kru Brooke: Generally speaking, let’s say you’re eating really well and all the sudden you don’t drink enough water today. “I had 6 cups of coffee;” you had a bad day at work. And then the next day, you skip a meal because you didn’t have time. Okay. The next day, you did get your water and then you went out with your buddies and had a couple beers after class.
The next day you do something else, and then boom, you roll your ankle. “Oh man, it’s bad luck!” Not really. You kind of depleted your body of what it really needs to be able to do this extra physical activity. If you don’t martial arts, if you don’t do sports, if you don’t work out, if you have a sedentary life and you don’t necessarily move that much, you can get kind of get away with having a Hot Pocket, having a beer–
Jordan Baker: That’s me!
Kru Brooke: You can maintain that lifestyle, and then all the sudden you say, “I’m gonna go do 50 round kicks!” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Your body is not gonna be ready for that, so you need to change how you eat a little to prepare yourself for that kind of exertion and exercise.
Dr. DeGraaff: I’m gonna take rolling an ankle and I’m gonna move it to professor San Juan here. That’s probably a common injury with running, which you talk about a lot. Can you let our listeners and viewers know what you do at Western and then also go into maybe running common injuries? ‘Cause that’s all kind of linked together.
Dr. San Juan: So I’m an associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Development. We just changed our name. We used to be Physical Education, Health, and Recreation. In terms of what I do here, I do research looking at injury prevention and rehab, looking at both the upper extremity and lower extremity. One of the main research topics I’m looking at is running related injuries. Surprisingly though, ankle sprains is not one of them. It’s not a common running related injury. You see more of ankle sprains when you’re doing basketball (there’s a lot of jumping and landing), volleyball– those are more common injuries to those sports.
With running, especially with long distance runners, you see more of a stress fracture or interior knee pain. That’s kind of the more common injuries we see with runners.
Dr. DeGraaff: My husband tries to run and he rolls his ankle all the time, though.
Kru Brooke: You need to reteach him how to run.
Dr. DeGraaff: Later on in the show, we’re going to put away this table and you can show us some good form. Maybe he doesn’t have good form!
Dr. San Juan: In terms of ankle injuries, usually one of the most common thing that happens is they have instability of the ligaments. If their ligaments are not stable, it’s not going to provide stability to the joint, and then there’s going to be a lot of movement in different planes of the body and that’s why they get injured.
Jordan Baker: And maybe he should stop being so aggressive towards street signs, bobbing and weaving.
Dr. DeGraaff: He does not do that.
Jordan Baker: He might. You don’t know! Do you watch him?
Dr. DeGraaff: No, I don’t, because I don’t go out and run. That’s crazy. I always like to start our show with “how did somebody get into the field that they’re in?” So, I don’t know who wants to go first and talk about how it happened.
Dr. San Juan: When I was in high school I was an athlete, and also I grew up in the Philippines. For being a Filipino my height– I’m tall, so I was playing center. Then, I went to college and really didn’t get any taller. So, I was like “I think I’m going to give up being an athlete” and then just continue on with doing some sport science or athletic training. That’s how it started, and now it’s just continued into “I’m really enjoying this, I think I’m just gonna get my PhD and try to teach and influence.”
Jordan Baker: “I’ll just get my PhD.”
Dr. San Juan: Yeah, so that’s kind of the history behind it.
Dr. DeGraaff: I just love how you said you felt really tall and then you just stopped growing. I was in 6th grade with Jordan– were we in the same 6th grade as well? We were all in the same 6th grade class, and I stopped growing that year. I remember people like “you’re so tall.” I was like this height in 6th grade. I thought more would happen!
Dr. San Juan: I know, right! And then it stopped growing!
Dr. DeGraaff: It didn’t happen! I stopped playing basketball that year too!
Jordan Baker: I don’t have that problem.
Dr. DeGraaff: No, you grew way later, right?
Jordan Baker: I was five foot until I graduated high school, and then I grew a foot and a half.
Dr. DeGraaff: I know a little bit about your background, Brook, but how did you get into martial arts specifically?
Kru Brooke: I loved watching martial arts moves and Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of my favorite actors at the time. I was out with a friend walking around downtown and I happened to see a martial arts school and I stopped in there. I just poked my head in for a second to see what was going on. It was a very traditional martial arts school, very quiet, and I think they were meditating at the time. I poked my head in and then I left. And then one of– what I assume was a senior student got the sensei’s attention and I was instantly intimidated. He was a very large Caucasian man with lots of chest hair. He said, “Come to my office” and I was like “okay.”
So I went in and I sat down and he says, “Why did you come in here?” I said, “Uhh, I don’t really know.” Long story short, he intimidated me, put me in a joint lock, and said, “This what we do and it will be good for you.” I said, “I’m out of here!”
Dr. DeGraaff: You mean in your meeting? This is your initial meeting?
Kru Brooke: Yes. He is sitting there and I’m sitting here, and he says, “This is what we do” and puts me in some goose-neck, and I said, “That hurts, I’m leavin’!” and so I did. I kept walking down the street and stopped at another place, and then I walked into Total Confidence Martial Arts, and another Shifu walked up to me and shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “What brings in you today?” I said, “Well, I like kickboxing.” He said, “That’s great.”
I started doing classes there, and lost a bunch of weight, and my confidence went through the roof. I ended up staying, and a couple years later they hired me as front desk. A couple years later they hired me as an instructor, and then here we are 17 years later and now I get a chance to operate and own my own school and give back to my community what was given to me.
Jordan Baker: Have you ever thought about going back to that first guy and putting him in a gooseneck, ripping out some chest hairs–
Kru Brooke: You know, I’ve never thought that, ever.
Dr. DeGraaff: Is that guy still around?
Kru Brooke: I think that their facility has moved, and that student who got up now has his own school here in town. So he also teaches martial arts, too, so I’m not sure where his sensei is, but I would never go back and say, “Look at me now!”
Jordan Baker: You don’t even have to say, “Look at me now.” Just blindside him!
Kru Brooke: Just tackle him and say, “How could you have done this to me?”
Dr. DeGraaff: As a student of yours now, I can totally respect how awesome you are at helping people with their confidence, but also helping people with not getting injured. When we’re in class, you’re like, “Hey, hey, don’t do that.” I want to talk about some injury we all got, maybe from some event, and how do you avoid those injuries? Jordan, have you ever gotten an injury from anything athletic?
Jordan Baker: Anything athletic? No.
Kru Brooke: All accidental?
Jordan Baker: It was all accidental. One injury I had was in gym in 8th grade, and I was running across to the other side of the basketball hoop and instead of just stopping myself like this, I put my fists out like this to stop myself and I broke right there.
Dr. DeGraaff: I do want to talk about the idea of when you are doing martial arts and you hold your punches. How do you hold your hands and what’s the appropriate way to hold it? I know you put your thumb here, your thumb here, like…
Kru Brooke: Many different martial arts will have a different way that they hold their hands based on whether they’re a hard style or a soft style. Muay Thai is a hard style; it’s combat. There are weight classes. It’s not necessarily something soft like Wing Chun, where it’s based on structure. There’s no weight classes in Wing Chun, it’s primarily for self-defense only. A good rule of thumb in any kind of martial art, or any kind of striking, is if you can make a full fist and if you can’t see your nails and you’re not white knuckling, then you’ve got some structure.
Any time that you hold your fist super-duper tight, and then you contract all the muscles in your forearm, you create a lot of tension. Upon impact, you’ll create more tension, and then something might release, meaning some kind of a tear, or pull, or something like that. So, you just want to make sure that your fist has form and that you’re hitting with a strong contact surface.
Jordan Baker: I don’t think I’m doing it right.
Kru Brooke: You must hold your fingers like this. No, I’m just kidding.
Jordan Baker: It’s like a bear claw.
Kru Brooke: If you put your thumb inside of your hand–
Dr. DeGraaff: You’ll break your thumb.
Kru Brooke: Well it will hurt a lot, and hopefully you won’t hit anything that hard. You can’t actually make a strong fist if you put your thumb inside. If you squeeze your own thumb right now, you’ll feel some tension inside of one of your knuckles, and it’s not very structurally sound. Any time you put a finger in between another finger, it’s not going to be very sound.
Dr. DeGraaff: So fingers have to be outside.
Kru Brooke: It’s best if you can curl your fingers inside and take your thumb and cover your index and middle finger for general boxing or Muay Thai purposes. If it were a soft style like Wing Chun, it would be different, because you take a hard target like your hand and you hit something soft.
Dr. DeGraaff: So the science of what Kru Brook is saying is–
Dr. San Juan: It’s physics! You get after this, right?
Dr. DeGraaff: No, I can’t. I’m like, “This is a finger bone.” I don’t know anything about–
Dr. San Juan: I think that’s the key with what we teach in our department, the tie between physics– and that’s biomechanics: physics and biology. The reason for that is you want to increase the surface area, right? If you increase the surface area that you’re hitting, then you’re dissipating that force.
Dr. DeGraaff: That’s true, huh. It’s impulse!
Dr. San Juan: Pressure is equal to force times area, so that’s really important. You want to increase the surface area when you’re hitting.
Dr. DeGraaff: Jun, is there an injury that’ you have had that your work has helped you get through?
Dr. San Juan: Not currently, but when I was in high school playing basketball, I had an ankle injury. I probably twisted my ankle. Lately though, probably I’m not just doing more.
Dr. DeGraaff: Those hot pockets
Jordan Baker: Don’t eat a hot pocket!
Dr. DeGraaff: We’re gonna get sued!
Jordan Baker: Exactly. They’re not gonna sponsor us! What about your injuries?
Dr. DeGraaff: When I started– Kru Brook’s studio opened last May, and my left knee just got worse and worse. I couldn’t hop on it anymore. We were talking about round kicks, and we have to do these round kicks very fast. It’s kind of like the can-can. Like, if anyone knows– no one under the age of 30–
Jordan Baker: Is that the–
Dr. DeGraaff: [Singing can-can tune.] Basically this round kick is like the can-can, and I can only do it on one side because my knee can’t handle it if I’m kicking with my right leg and bouncing on my left. It just doesn’t work. Like, for a month it was hurting and I couldn’t do anything. I don’t know how to avoid that. I was twisting my knee a lot, I think. I don’t know.
Kru Brooke: Some of the things you can do to avoid those types of injuries are to make sure that you’re actually pivoting when you’re doing a kick.
Dr. DeGraaff: Yeah, I don’t do that.
Jordan Baker: Stay planted!
Kru Brooke: This is leading into my injury. I had my second competition, I was fighting. We had a 160-pound weight class. In that weight class way back then, it was really hard to find girls in our fighting category because there weren’t very many. So, the girl I had to fight was 5’10 and I’m 5’0. We went out to the ring, and we got into the ring and felt that it was super slick.
It was wet, and it was super soft. So we thought, “Alright, we’re gonna put resin down and you’re gonna put your feet on that to make them sticky.” And I made the worst mistake ever: I looked at her leg before I kicked it, and I committed 100%. Don’t ever commit 100%, don’t look where you’re gonna hit first, and don’t plant. I did all of those things, and she moved her leg.
Dr. DeGraaff: And on a sticky floor.
Kru Brooke: Well, the ring was slick, and my foot was totally planted, and so I planted, I went to go kick her leg and she moved it, and my entire body kept moving except for my planted leg, and I tore my ACL right there. The only show that my mom came to see and that was it, and she was happy that it wasn’t my very expensive, braced-up teeth.
One of the ways that you can prevent those types of injuries is by making sure that your body is in proper alignment, that you never commit 100% when you’re fighting somebody– but when you’re working on a bag or doing this for fitness, one of the things we teach is making sure that if you do not have the ability to pivot due to weakness in your calf or ankle, that you actually place your foot in the position of already being pivoted so that we can prevent those things from happening in the future. And then, when people get tired, they lose their focus. They stop pivoting, and we have remind them they have to “pivot that foot, pivot that foot,” and get the least amount of fraction possible so that you don’t have that sheering.
Dr. DeGraaff: That’s what was happening. I was twisting weird. This is a great segue. We’re gonna take a quick break, and when we come back we’re gonna have this table be gone, and we’re going to actually show these movements that we’re talking about. Jun, you can show us proper running position, and proper alignment. Both of you can kind of help us with that.
[? Janelle Monae singing Wondaland ?]
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? I wander off into a land
? You can go, but you mustn’t tell a soul
? There’s a world inside
? Where dreamers meet each other
Dr. DeGraaff: If you’re just joining us, this is Spark Science. I’m Regina Barber DeGraaff. Today we are talking about kinesiology with Kru Brooke and Dr. Jun San Juan.
You were talking about alignment of body, so like, if you were running, how should your body be aligned? And then we’ll talk about if you’re like doing a round kick or something, how should your body be aligned? Because those are the two things we were talking about.
Dr. San Juan: I think the most important thing, and this is what we see with runners, is alignment of the knee to the toes. We want it to be aligned so that when you are on that stance phase and accepting weight, you want it to be aligned to your toes. You see a lot of people that when they are running, and they’re on that stance phase, their knee is going to be pointing in. We call that “valgus joint position.”
Dr. DeGraaff: Is that bad?
Dr. San Juan: Yeah, it is bad.
Jordan Baker: If it’s got a name like Valgus it’s not gonna be good!
Dr. San Juan: Like what Brooke was saying earlier with the ACL, that’s the most common mechanism of injury, or position of the knee, when you have an ACL tear. Usually the ACL tear is a non-contact injury. That’s when you have your knee in valgus. If you’re looking at that, that’s in valgus. That would predispose you into tearing your ligament on the knee, which is the anterior cruciate ligament, or the ACL. You kinda want it to be more aligned to your toes.
When you look at the side, you don’t want your knee to be ahead of your toes, ’cause now you’re using a lot of your quadriceps muscle, which are on the front of your thigh. You want it to be, again, behind or even in line with the ankle, if you can.
Dr. DeGraaff: Like with the ankle straight up?
Dr. San Juan: Yeah, so that you’re using more of your hip muscles, like your glute max (which is a really big muscle), when you’re trying to propel forward. Those are the key mechanics to look for, which is surprisingly– those are controlled by the hip stability. So, if your hip muscles are weak, then even if you’re trying to put your form on the same plane, you can’t maintain it, ’cause you just want to go back to going in.
Dr. DeGraaff: Is this linked to my problem when I was doing round kicks? Was my knee inward too much, possibly?
Kru Brooke: For most people, our concern when we start teaching round kicks is making sure that they don’t have a flat foot. Not only that, but that their entire body turns together as a unit. You never want your upper body to go one way and your hips to go the other. You can give yourself some low back pain if you throw your arm down when you’re going to do a round kick.
There are some styles that do that on purpose from training in the ocean, but one of the things that’s really important is the setting up in your stance and making sure that you’re aligned properly.
Dr. DeGraaff: Let’s see a round kick, can you do one?
Kru Brooke: With all of this stuff on, I could probably break your mic. First things first, you want to make sure that your shoulders and your hips and your knees are all in a line. For some people, they end up being splayed out too much. They have kind of an obtuse stance.
Dr. DeGraaff: Like frog legs!
Kru Brooke: A little bit! What’s most important is making sure you have all of your hard parts pointing forward, ’cause it is a combat style, but also so that it’s going to be easier for you to pivot. If my body is open this way, and I want to kick this way, it’s going to be really hard for my leg to travel, and it’s going to be a lot of strain on my knee and a lot of strain on my oblique to try to bring all of that meat around. What we want to do is make sure that everything is in alignment, not only for your punches, but also so that this is the direction that you’re going to go when you run, and this is the direction that you’re going to go when you’re fighting.
When you go to do the round kick, it’s really important that you have some pivoting that’s happening on your front leg on the ball of your foot, if you’re going to be kicking with your back leg. The other thing is having balance, but maintaining a pivot in the ball of your foot and a pivot in your knee, and making sure that your whole body moves together as a unit– that’s what’s going to help save you from injury.
Dr. DeGraaff: I remember, Jun, in previous talks we talked about staying on the front of your foot when you’re running. Can you tell me more about that?
Dr. San Juan: There’s different ways of initial contact with running. Usually, with running, when you’re contacting there’s three different positions. Either you strike with your heel first (which is kind of like the heel strike), and then you can either do midfoot or forefoot striking. Those are the different initial contact patterns for running. There is a fad right now because of the Born to Run book. They’re saying it’s better to run barefoot, and when you’re running barefoot, it’s really hard to run barefoot when you’re hitting your heal first. That’s why a lot of people are doing tip-toe running– or you’re going to be on your forefoot when you’re running.
The problem we see with forefoot running is that you’re changing, there’s different mechanics. If your body’s not used to it, then you’ll have different injuries based on that. I’m not a big proponent of it. The faster you go, though– if you look at hundred-meter sprinters, they’re going to be more on their toes, but they’re only running for 100 meters.
Jordan Baker: That was going to be one of my questions. For the hundred meters, they’re gonna be mostly on their toes. But for distance runners, they typically, because they’re going for so long that they have to preserve their body?
Dr. San Juan: When I was working in a physical therapy clinic, what we’d do is we don’t change your pattern if that’s not really causing the injury. So, if you’re a heel striker or a rear-foot striker, and that’s not really causing the pain in your knee, then we’re not going to change it. But, if that is the cause, then we have to look into the possibility that maybe you have to be a midfoot or forefoot striker.
For example, forefoot strikers, since they’re always on their tip-toes, they’re contracting their calves (or gastrocs), so there’s going to be a lot of Achilles tendon pain. If it’s an Achilles tendon pain, then we have to change or shift that, or maybe we have to strengthen those muscles. If it’s a forefoot striker, there’s more shin splints or stress fractures on the tibia. Then we might have to–
Dr. DeGraaff: What’s the tibia?
Dr. San Juan: The tibia is on the shin. In biomechanics we call that the “shank,” which a lot of my students laugh at me when I say “shank.”
Dr. DeGraaff: Is that because of previous butcher…
Dr. San Juan: There you go! The shank, yeah! So, those are some of the reasons we have to change the mechanics. But really, if it’s not causing the injury, we don’t have to change it. We have to really look for what’s causing the injury, and that’s what we focus on.
Dr. DeGraaff: So that’s what you mean by not being an advocate for this Born to Run thing? It’s individual, and not a blanket “everyone should be running barefoot!”
Dr. San Juan: Yes. When that started, the 5-toed shoes were very popular because of that, because they’re trying to force you to be a forefoot striker. But if you’re not a forefoot striker and then you start doing 10 miles in the 5-toed shoes, you’re going to get injured. You have to do it gradually and progressively.
Dr. DeGraaff: When you were talking about forefoot striking and heel striking, is there something– I know it’s bad to say there’s a blanket statement, but is there something about aligning your body and how do you do that properly, in running or in any sport (or martial arts)?
Dr. San Juan: I think Brooke kinda talked about it a little bit: try to make everything point where you are going. Especially with pivoting, it is hard to pivot on your heels, or on flat feet. You have to be on the balls of your feet, and you really need to face where you’re going, and your body needs to move– you’re thinking of an entire movement of the body, not just one part of it. If this moves, and you’re leaving this– and that’s kinda what’s happening with ACL, is they’re cutting, and then when they move, they’re moving, and then this is also moving, and then now the foot is left pointing there, but you’re going here, so there’s a lot of stress on that ligament, the ACL, which is going to get injured.
Dr. DeGraaff: We’ve been talking a lot about the bottom part of our bodies. Is there anything about the top part of our bodies, like the arms and back and that kind of staff? Like common injuries the come up and stuff that we can kind of show better alignment? I’m at the computer all the time, so I’m like this.
Kru Brooke: We see a lot of people in class with shoulder injuries, or neck, headaches, migraines, and we’re stuck like this, or this, and so you get a lot of people with really tight chests. So, their chest becomes really tight and kinda pulls everything forward. Then, as far as martial arts, we ask them to use their arms and their shoulder comes out of their socket and this becomes overworked. We are stressed, so here in America, where we hold are stress is all right here for some reason: it’s in your face, it’s in your back, it’s in your neck, and we kind of end up with these caved-in chests, shoulders in our ears, constantly having to tell ourselves to relax.
In kickboxing, sometimes what you’ll see is you’ll have some shoulder injuries. One easy thing you can do to help remedy that is massage these guys out.
Dr. DeGraaff: In the front, so the muscles right below your neck in the top part of your chest?
Kru Brooke: Right, so your pectoral connects into your shoulder. Sometimes people think, “Oh, it’s just my deltoid that’s injured, or just my rotator cuff.” Sometimes it’s their latissimus, which is from the back, which connects up into their shoulder.
Jordan Baker: I hear that all the time.
Dr. DeGraaff: I’ve never heard that.
Jordan Baker: Sometimes my delt is really just killing me.
Kru Brooke: Right, or your trapezius or pectorals, they all connect into this very complicated joint. One of the common things we see because we’re so bent forward all the time in our cars and at our desks is really tight chests. So if you can massage these guys out and work with the fascia, which is a very thin membrane which helps to keep tissues together– sometimes that gets hardened and calcified, so if you can massage it and get it to open, then you can alleviate a lot of these types of pains. Same thing with your upper back and lower back as well.
Dr. San Juan: The shoulder is my primary line of research; that’s what I do. One of the most common injuries to the shoulder is shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement is when the structures underneath– so we have the scapula (the shoulder blade), and when the structures underneath that acromion are getting impinged. One of the most common results of that is because you’re using a lot of your upper trapezius. Your upper trapezius is a muscle that attaches here.
Dr. DeGraaff: For our listeners, the muscle right below the ears.
Dr. San Juan: Yeah. It goes to the base of your skull, and then it goes to the clavicle. When they get tight, that’s why it goes forward.
Dr. DeGraaff: That’s why you hunch.
Dr. San Juan: Yep, when you’re typing, over time. And the reason why you’re getting tension headaches is that attach to the base of your skull. So, if you’re using a lot of your upper trapezius, what’s going to happen is now, that pain is going to radiate up into your head.
Dr. DeGraaff: Oh my god!
Dr. San Juan: One of the studies we are trying to figure out is “how can we avoid that?” So, we’re using electromyography, or EMG, which is very similar to EKG technology. So, we use sensors and we put them on the muscles. The main muscles we’re looking at are the upper trapezius and the lower trapezius. The lower trapezius is more here, at the bottom of your scapula. We want that to work more, because it’s going to pull your shoulders back and in. So, we look at different exercises, we use that feedback, they look at a screen– and they do very simple exercises. We call it IWTY, for lack of terms.
Dr. DeGraaff: Give us some of those simple exercises.
Dr. San Juan: For I, you’re going to be here, like a letter I, and you’re going to pull your shoulders back.
Dr. DeGraaff: I’m gonna do it. Oh, I just heard it crack, just now.
Dr. San Juan: Yeah, so you’re getting that retraction. W would be like a letter W, and then you’re pulling it down. So, the goal is they’re looking at the screen and trying to limit the activation of their upper-trapezius. And then T, and then Y.
Dr. DeGraaff: Wait, so T is like…
Dr. San Juan: T is more here at the start, and then you just open it.
Jordan Baker: “Welcome!”
Dr. DeGraaff: “Welcome,” or “here’s stuff on a table.”
Dr. San Juan: There you go. ‘Cause if you’re using a lot of your upper traps, then you’re going to be getting the motion from here instead of that lower trapezius. And then the last one is Y.
Dr. DeGraaff: Like the YMCA.
Dr. San Juan: Yeah. There you go. Interestingly, we found in this study that we just published recently that if you do that exercise and you really concentrate on targeting your lower trapezius, we saw that the scapula, instead of going– when you’re scapula’s forward, which we call “anteriorly tilted,” and that’s internally rotated, and then downwardly rotated, it increases the space of this acromion.
Dr. DeGraaff: So, the shoulder?
Dr. San Juan: So the sub-acromion, is it okay if I show it?
Dr. DeGraaff: Yeah.
Dr. San Juan: So, it’s right in here. This space is really small. It’s around 6-14mm.
Dr. DeGraaff: So it’s just under the like shoulder part.
Dr. San Juan: Yeah. So what we want is to pull that. That’s why for good posture we always say “pull your shoulders back,” because it increases that sub-acromial space.
Dr. DeGraaff: My mom would constantly slap my back.
Dr. San Juan: If we do those exercises, you can move your shoulder a bit more towards the back so it’s externally rotated, and eventually avoid should impingement. If you don’t get that shoulder impingement taken care of, it could lead to rotator cuff tears.
Dr. DeGraaff: So these small exercises that you showed us, do those really help people if they are already hunching a lot, and it’s already kind of bad, and they’ve been doing this as a habit their whole life, and they’re like in their mid-30s? I’m talking about myself.
Dr. San Juan: Especially if you’re always in front of the computer, right? Over time, if you’re at the computer and over time, after like 20 minutes, you go like this– if you take a break, just try to pull your shoulders back.
Dr. DeGraaff: So it’s good to do those little exercises, maybe a couple times a day?
Dr. San Juan: Yeah. It’s just to keep reminding yourself that you have to pull your shoulders back. That’s what we found is that for “keep your shoulders back,” there’s really a reason that you want to do that.
Dr. DeGraaff: It’s not just your mom yelling at you.
Dr. San Juan: No.
Jordan Baker: I find when I have better posture everything just feels better. You can breathe deeper, and it feels right. But after a while, you’re just like…
Dr. San Juan: Yeah. If you’re going to be pulling your shoulders in, it decreases the space where your lungs can move, right? So, if you pull your shoulders back, you’re increasing your thoracic volume, so now your lungs could really expand bigger.
Dr. DeGraaff: That’s awesome. We’re gonna kind of finish up here. This will be one of my last questions. Usually, for every one of my guests, I like to ask them a certain question, and it’s “how is your field represented in popular culture?” So, is it good, is it bad? Either one can go first.
Kru Brooke: Everyone knows what the UFC is.
Dr. DeGraaff: I don’t know what that is. Oh, the ultimate fighting…
Kru Brooke: Ultimate fighting, yeah. Dana White, the whole 9 yards. I think that’s the largest representation of martial arts right now, and it’s sad, because that’s not what martial arts is. Martial arts is working on your spirit, and martial arts is working on cultivating confidence within yourself, and challenging yourself physically, not just trying to throw things harder and faster and getting out there and making money. The science and the art is kind of being thrown into this pool of “anybody can do any kind of fighting at any time.”
That would be the biggest representation of martial arts right now, and luckily, there are women– because I’m a woman and I do martial arts– who are now in the UFC, who are helping to motivate other women to martial arts, which I think is great. I think a couple of years ago, Jackie Chan and Jet Lee were really big martial artists, after Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Those Wing Chun movies, and those old Kung Fu movies with the white beard are kind of dying off, unfortunately, and now it’s being replaced with this. Within our school, we’re trying to bring back a modern tradition to martial arts so that it’s a little bit more welcoming for everyone. You don’t have to have a shaved head and tattoos on your face. You can be, you know, a professor at Western–
Dr. DeGraaff: Like me!
Kru Brooke: Or you can be a butcher, or an ex-butcher.
Jordan Baker: Just wait until you throw Gina into the Octagon with barbed wire fences everywhere.
Kru Brooke: That’s right. But that’s not what it’s like at our studio. Hopefully we can represent it a little bit better now, and make it a bit more welcoming, because anybody can do it with the right training and the right environment.
Dr. DeGraaff: That’s awesome. That’s what we try to do with science with this show. We just try to show that anyone can do, or at least be interested in science, and it’s not just for a certain kind of person.
Jordan Baker: Wait, is that why I’m here?
Dr. DeGraaff: Yep.
Jordan Baker: Okay.
Dr. San Juan: Kinesiology. It’s fairly new. Not too many people know kinesiology, probably. This is the first time you guys have heard of kinesiology.
Jordan Baker: True.
Dr. San Juan: I think there’s really a big push for kinesiology. But really, you could name it exercise science, or sports science, because there’s different specialization within it. I could talk about biomechanics since that’s my field, and interestingly you probably don’t know that many of our kinesiology majors, or exercise science majors, go work in the motion industry.
Dr. DeGraaff: Like the motion capture industry for movies? Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings?
Dr. San Juan: Yeah. So, the technologies they’re using are really based on what we do in the study of the human body. You know, where they put the markers on boney landmarks and they want to see– Avatar is a good example, or Lord of the Rings– their movements are really precise and accurate, and that’s because of the technology that we’re using. So, it’s just a different field. You’re not doing any increased performance or decreasing injury. It’s more of that motion.
I think it’s increasing in terms of people knowing more about kinesiology. A lot of people are getting involved with sports, or with different martial arts. They’re thinking about how they can decrease injury, and so they go back to reading some kinesiology books. So, it’s really helpful in terms of getting exposure kinesiology, to the field of biomechanics.
Dr. DeGraaff: That’s awesome. I want to thank you both for coming here, and thank you Jordan as well. Thank you for coming, and thank you for showing us everything for us not to get those common injuries. That’s really helpful for me.
Thank you for joining us. You just heard our interview with Dr. Jun San Juan, professor in kinesiology at Western Washington University, and Kru Brooke, a Thai kickboxing coach in Bellingham, Washington. If you missed any of the show, go to our website, sparksciencenow.com or go kmre.org and click on the podcast link. We’ll be back again next week. Listen to us on 102.3 FM in Bellingham, or kmre.org streaming on Sundays at 5pm, Thursdays at noon, and Saturdays at 3pm. If there’s a science idea you’re curious about, send us an email or post a message on our Facebook page: Spark Science.
This is an all-volunteer show, so if you want to help us out, go to sparksciencenow.com and click on “donate.” Our theme music is Chemical Calisthenics by Blackalicious and Wondaland by Janelle Monae. Today’s episode was recorded at Western Washington University in the digital media center. Our producer is Susanne Blaze, our engineer for today is Natalie Moore and the DMC crew. Special thanks to Western Washington University, Pure Fitness Martial Arts in Bellingham, and the kinesiology department.
[?Blackalicious rapping Chemical Calisthenics ?]
? Lead, gold, tin, iron, platinum, zinc, when I rap you think
? Iodine nitrate activate
? Red geranium, the only difference is I transmit sound
? Balance was unbalanced then you add a little talent in
? Careful, careful with those ingredients
? They could explode and blow up if you drop them
? And they hit the ground
[End of podcast.]