The first World Congress of Biomechanics was held on August 30 through September 3, 1990 at the University of California, San Diego. Chiropractic was well-represented among the many specialities by Drs.Arlan W. Fuhr and Paul Osterbauer (president and research director, respectively, of Activator Methods) and Dr. John Triano, Chief of Staff of the National College of Chiropractic. The Congress attracted over 3,000 participants and included some 1,200 paper presentations during the six day meeting.
The initial concept of the World Congress was based on the recognition that a variety of disciplines are interested in biomechanics, a field which thrives due to this diverse input. A biomechanist may be a physicist, attorney, psychologist, sociologist, dentist, educator, historian, chiropractor or engineer. Biomechanists have attended biomechanically relevant conferences in their own disciplines, but have not often had the opportunity for interdisciplinary exchanges. The world Congress offers just such opportunities on an international basis.
Many of the American participants at the congress are members of the United States National Committee of Biomechanics, an organization comprised of member societies, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Physiological Society, the Orthopedic Research Society, and the Society of Automotive Engineers, among others. Many of these disciplines should be of interest to chiropractors, whether the DC is in general practice or specializes in sub-fields such as sports medicine or orthopedics.
During the past two years Drs. Fuhr and Osterbauer have collaborated with a team composed of graduate students Joe Peles and Kathy Derickson, and headed by Associate Professor Jack Winters, Ph.D. from the Chemical and Bio-Materials Engineering Department at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Their project has quantified neck movements and muscle activity in normal and injured subjects in an effort to better appreciate cervical spine injuries. Dr. Winters presented the team's work ("Relations between neck muscle activity and screw axis parameters of the head") during a session on Multi-Muscle Organization: Role of Neck Muscles in Posture and Head Orientation, which was chaired by Monohar Panjabi, Ph.D. of the Department of Surgical Orthopedics at Yale University.
John Triano, M.A., D.C. presented the results of his collaboration with Albert Schultz, Ph.D. of the University of Michigan. Their paper, entitled "Neck muscles response to manipulation of the cervical spine," quantified the forces produced during a cervical-break manipulation and the EMG response of the major neck muscles.
The conference had a profound effect on the chiropractic participants. According to Dr. Fuhr, "I think that the chiropractic profession has suffered tremendously from our traditional isolation from the mainstream of scientific debate represented by the university system. In the midst of a session of muscle modeling, as I listened to presenter after presenter, the lack of understanding and participation in scientific methods by our profession was hammered home, and I realized the necessity of making basic engineering concepts (dynamics, statics, etc.) integral parts of the chiropractic sciences taught in our colleges. It hit me as never before that the people at this conference have the expertise we need in order to quantify the mechanical properties of the spine and its neural control mechanisms. Their knowledge and experience will enable us to test chiropractic theories against reality, and they, in turn, will benefit from our years of clinical experience." According to Dr. Osterbauer, "It is apparent that if we are to become and remain leaders in the field of manipulative health care, we need to emphasize biomechanics."