Biomechanics in India: an opportunity for cross-cultural research

Posted on December 22, 2016

I have just returned from an eight-day visit to the MGM Centre of Human Movement Science in Navi Mumbai, India. I have known Prof. Rajani Mullerpatan, Director of the Centre, for over four years now and continue to be impressed with initiatives she leads both within and outside the lab.  Activities range from student research projects investigating the movement mechanics of traditional dance and lifestyle to creating awareness and training of healthcare providers about biomechanics, as well as clinical assessments of patients with musculoskeletal disorders. Most recently, I’ve had the privilege to be part of some of the research and teaching that takes place here.

In August 2013, Dr. Rajani Mullerapatan and I travelled from opposite ends of the globe to meet for the first time in person in Natal, Brazil. Following e-mail and Skype discussions from our respective locations on the planet, it was our shared time at that ISB Congress that ultimately offered the opportunity for us to get to know one another… and for the seed of collaboration to be planted.

Our shared intentions to apply biomechanics research to understanding culturally specific activities such as squatting in India motivated us to collaborate on a joint research initiative. One of our questions focussed on the biomechanical differences between physical postures that a woman may choose during childbirth: how would upright positions such as squatting facilitate or hinder passage of the baby through the birth canal when compared with more conventional supine positions? Could we measure the kinematics of the pelvis and dynamic forces acting on this segment in these different birthing positions?

Following two additional in-person meetings in Glasgow and Toronto in 2015 our ideas took form as a small grant proposal at the end of that year. By that time the MGM Centre of Human Movement Science, boasting a 12-camera Vicon motion capture system, three AMTI force platforms, and a Novel pressure platform, had just been officially inaugurated. (You can read more about the history of this project and ISB contributions in the ISB Now 2014 and 2015 archives.)

This past April our hard work and planning finally came to fruition when I travelled to MGM’s Centre of Human Movement Science in India for two weeks. During this time I contributed to an interdisciplinary biomechanics training course with students from engineering and physiotherapy and worked together with several students and research associates on various aspects of our research project.

The objective of this project was to investigate the effects of birthing position on pelvic dimensions in a group of non-pregnant, Indian subjects. Clinically-relevant pelvic dimensions are estimated from anatomical landmarks that are digitized using the Vicon motion capture system. Dynamic analysis of motion, including loading at the hip and lumbosacral joints, will help us interpret pelvimetry findings.

It has been an ambitious undertaking and we all continued to work hard refining data collection and processing methods after my initial stay. During my recent follow-up visit we had an opportunity to address some of the many challenges of this project – from the “mundane” data processing issues to the complex dynamics of cross-cultural collaboration. It has been a valuable learning experience and has presented new insights and opportunities; I look forward to further collaboration with Rajani and her colleagues long into the future.

Research collaborators including ISB members Dr. Andrea Hemmerich (far left), Prof. Rajani Mullerpatan (centre right in blue), and Prof. Geneviève Dumas (far right) at the MGM Institute of Health Sciences.

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The Making of MGM Center for Human Movement Science

Posted on March 29, 2015

We are pleased to share that the intense, concerted effort on the project initiated in August 2012 to establish a center for human movement science at MGM Institute of Health Sciences (MGMIHS) was successfully completed in February 2015. To address an urgent need to integrate clinical biomechanics in health care, I proposed a project to the International Society of Biomechanics to establish a center for movement analysis through the EDC initiative.

After initial positive encouragement from Prof.Julie Steele (ISB President 2009-2011) in Aug ust 2012 at ESM, Aalborg, Denmark, I began communication with Dr.AndreaHemmerich, a highly enthusiastic, supportive and focused EDC Officer to identify the objectives and outcome of such a center. Continued Skype discussions over a year between Andrea and me chipped in the draft of the MoU which was presented to the ISB Executive Council Members at the XXIV ISB Congress, Natal, Brazil in August 2013 in partnership with Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB) and Cardiff University, UK. Many thanks for the ISB travel grant and support from MGMIHS that I managed to travel to Natal for the presentation and discussion.

Andrea together with other participants, including Prof. Ton van den Bogert, had convened a workshop to discuss the challenges economically developing countries faced to establish infrastructure for research and training in Biomechanics. It was very helpful to listen to experiences and evaluate our proposal.

Andrea and I then met with Prof. Ton van den Bogert (ISB President at the time) and Prof. Bart Koopman (ISB Developing Countries Officer) to discuss the proposal to assess its feasibility, viability and relevance in India. At that point we discussed that we had local support from Prof.B.Ravi, IITB, and support from Cardiff University through Prof. Robert van Deursen. We also discussed how we were trying to seek support from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, for this initiative and also to build awareness about this science and its application in health care to address culturally specific needs of Indian lifestyle. The team was convinced and it was decided to seek support from sponsors of ISB to move forward. Ton discussed with Mr. Gary Blanchard (AMTI) and Mr. Andy Ray (Vicon) and they kindly agreed in principle and we took another step forward. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2013 between primary collaborating partners to structure and foster teamwork.

Untiring efforts from Andrea and the EDC team we were finally offered a huge generous donation from Vicon and AMTI: an 8-camera Vicon system and 2 force plates. In the meanwhile in May 2014, Robert van Deursen was sponsored by ISB to visit the site in Mumbai and help in the ground work planning for installation.

At this point Ms. Adele Burdock and Mr. François Asseman appeared on the scene and the planning for the shipment began. The actual shipment and the paper work for custom clearance was a highly complex and arduous task accomplished by Adele and François. We are ever so grateful to both of them for their perseverance.

Finally we received the equipment on Wednesday evening i.e. 11th of February. Robert had arrived for his second visit on 8th February and we were setting the site for installation - right from shopping for the clamps to the camera to getting the pipes and cable trays fitted for the cameras. Robert has done a commendable job working approx. long (10 hours on two days) hours in an environment which was full of dust and paint smell. On 9th and 10th February the pit was prepared to install the force plates and the metal pipes were fixed around the walls to mount the cameras under the guidance of Robert and Mr. Rupesh Pagdhare.

On Wednesday11th February, after we received the goods, Rupesh installed the force plates till 2.15am on Thursday i.e.12th Feb. I must deeply acknowledge the ongoing support and hard work from Mr.Vivek Nadkarni, Mrs.Tanuja Nadkarni and Rupesh (Indian team for Vicon and AMTI support) during the process of installation which continues. The installation was finally completed on Saturday afternoon i.e. 14th of February!!! We were all set to collect the data but, unfortunately, we could not achieve that because of inappropriate flooring.

But since then the system was tested and it all works well! Robert returned to Cardiff on Sunday with a sore throat after a week of hard work and we are extremely grateful to him for his efforts. We are also grateful to Robert for planning his academic and research activities at Cardiff University to allow time for two visits to the lab to help in the lab design, installation, training course and project discussion.

Mr. Nadkarni's team fine tuned the set up and we collected data on Thursday 19thFebruary 2015!!!. Analysis of data and generation of report has some hiccups which are being sorted with help from Mr. Jacques Gay (Vicon) and Rupesh. Another important activity we have been discussing with Robert during his visits in May 2014 and February 2015 is designing the training course in clinical biomechanics. Initial discussions were held with engineering board of MGM Trust and IITB on issues such as need, intake, duration and eligibility for the training course with an objective of generating a task force within the country for undertaking research and developing this science further in India. Further discussion was held with Robert and Andrea via Skype in May to agree upon the need and feasibility of such a program.

Now along with my colleague, Jyoti Chatla, we have collected data with whole body marker system for Yoga postures, squatting and dance postures. Analysis of these 3 postures form three different research projects and respective teams involving Prof.Ravi, Dr.Tandaiya and rest of the IITB group, Robert and Andrea are already identified. It is promising to have multidisciplinary teams of enthusiastic physiotherapists and mechanical engineers eager to work together at the center. After ironing the creases in data collection and fine tuning the system the projects should take off and then a lot of scientific knowledge will unfold through various projects which are at a stage of concept design. Prof.Nordin visited the center last week and commented it could be a facility for students from other countries to work on their projects. The center is open for enthusiastic researchers to work...

We are extremely grateful to ISB for helping us make this start with generous support from VICON and AMTI. Without support from ISB, MGMIHS would not have realized this dream to begin work in this area.


Dr. Rajani Mullerpatan
MGM Center for Human Movement Science
MGM Institute of Health Sciences
Navi Mumbai, India

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Biomechanics in Developing Countries

Posted on December 22, 2014

Webinar: Benefits and Challenges of Biomechanics Research in Developing Countries

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar on the “Benefits and Challenges of Biomechanics Research in Developing Countries” as part of a series organized by Professor Felipe Carpes to promote online biomechanics education. In the presentation, I illustrated the link between biomechanics research and global health priorities, such as those related to the Millennium Development Goals. Drawing on examples within the ISB community, I highlighted how EDC biomechanics can shed light on connections between social determinants and health outcome, in addition to improving treatment and lifestyle choices of populations worldwide. Not surprisingly, there are also many challenges associated with conducting biomechanics research in developing countries. At the end of the presentation I spoke briefly about how we can address these challenges in order to continue to advance biomechanics opportunities in EDCs.

If you were not able to attend this webinar, you can still access it online at the following link:

To learn more about Felipe’s biomechanics research initiatives at the University of Pampa, Brazil, and the history of collaboration with the ISB, please visit the UniPampa project page on the ISB website.

Exciting developments are also taking place on the opposite side of the globe at the MGMIHS clinical biomechanics lab in Mumbai, India. The ISB has been working closely with Dr. Mullerpatan, MGMIHS Project Director, as well as AMTI and Vicon to support expansion of the lab; installation of a motion capture system and force platforms is scheduled for early 2015. Stay tuned for an update on this project in the following ISB NOW newsletter.

Andrea Hemmerich
Economically Developing Countries (EDC) Project Officer

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Biomechanics gaining momentum in India and Colombia

Posted on June 27, 2014

Andrea Hemmerich, EDC Project Officer

It has been almost two years since I received an email from Prof. Rajani Mullerpatan who, with encouragement from former ISB President Julie Steele, sought ISB support to establish a biomechanics centre at her home university in India. Shortly thereafter, we “met” on Skype, the first of many conversations with each of us either up late or early to accommodate the 9 ½ hour time difference between Mumbai and Ottawa.  It did not take me long to realize that Rajani had the passion and expertise to advance the biomechanics agenda in India and I feel fortunate to be working with her in support of this goal.

Rajani, like many EDC scholars, pursued graduate studies overseas as graduate-level biomechanics research opportunities in India are few and far between. Her PhD at Cardiff University in the UK led to an academic position in Nottingham; her experience and professional networks gained at that time have since helped her grow the field of biomechanics in India.

Rajani has partnered with Prof. Robert van Deursen (Cardiff) and professors at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, to support her new Biomechanics Centre.  Their combined expertise and complementary academic backgrounds in physiotherapy, rehabilitation science, and engineering, allow them to support one another on research and teaching, as well as installation and future operation of equipment in the Clinical Biomechanics Lab that is currently under construction at the MGM Institute of Health Sciences (MGMIHS).

In addition to the existing Novel Emed pressure platform, Rajani would like to acquire a motion capture system and force platforms to create a state of the art research and clinical laboratory, unprecedented in the region of South Asia that is home to over one fifth of the world’s population.  An ISB-EDC grant supported Rajani’s travel to the ISB2013 Congress in Brazil, where we not only (at last) had the pleasure of meeting in person, but also connected with an AMTI representative through introductions by then ISB President, Ton van den Bogert. Both AMTI and, more recently, Vicon have responded positively to discussions on equipment donations, and/or sponsored purchases depending on the outcome of a research grant for which Rajani has applied through the Government of India.

Figure 1 (a) Robert van Deursen (left) describing requirements for equipment installation to engineers in Mumbai with Rajani Mullerpatan, MGMIHS Biomechanics Centre Director (right). (b) The vast space – in high demand in the densely populated city of Mumbai - procured by Dr. Mullerpatan for the Clinical Biomechanics Lab at MGMIHS is shown (May 2014).

Figure 1 (a) Robert van Deursen (left) describing requirements for equipment installation to engineers in Mumbai with Rajani Mullerpatan, MGMIHS Biomechanics Centre Director (right). (b) The vast space – in high demand in the densely populated city of Mumbai - procured by Dr. Mullerpatan for the Clinical Biomechanics Lab at MGMIHS is shown (May 2014).


Most recently Robert van Deursen spent a week in Mumbai with the objectives of helping Rajani design the lab space together with local structural engineers. Robert’s experience helped clarify misunderstandings around the physical lab set-up, undoubtedly averting major problems down the road. Further to planning the gait lab, Rajani and Robert had an opportunity to develop research and educational initiatives. In describing the outcomes from his “intense” trip, Robert wrote:

What cannot be easily explained in the report is that meetings were held in various parts of Mumbai and therefore a considerable amount of time was spend in vehicles travelling through heavy congestions. Some of our best meetings were held during these travels.

If all goes according to schedule, installation of the AMTI force platforms and Vicon motion capture system at the lab in Navi-Mumbai will take place later this year. To learn more about the MGMIHS project and to read Robert’s trip report, please visit the MGMIHS webpage.


India is not the only developing country where biomechanics is growing in importance. Stemming from the EDC Workshop that I facilitated at the ISB2013 Congress, Prof. Felipe Carpes (Vice-President, Brazilian Society of Biomechanics) in his characteristic creative and resourceful style, initiated my involvement in the 2nd International Congress of Biomechanics (ICB) taking place in Medellín, Colombia in November 2013.

Figure 2 Felipe Carpes (left) and Jose Acero speaking at ICB in Medellín, Colombia, November 2013.

Figure 2 Felipe Carpes (left) and Jose Acero speaking at ICB in Medellín, Colombia, November 2013.

Felipe and Jose Acero, Scientific Director of the Biomechanical Solutions and Research Institute in Colombia and ICB Organiser, had both participated in the ISB-EDC Workshop and recognized the opportunity to support one another in their ambitions to grow biomechanics in Latin America.  Jose had also wanted to introduce his Colombian biomechanics colleagues to the opportunities available through the ISB and so we coordinated a webinar that would be translated from English to Spanish and would allow participants to ask questions about the EDC programme.

The response I received to my presentation was simultaneously favourable and inspiring. Audience members asked for details about the EDC proposal process and whether regional research collaborations would be encouraged. (Yes, of course!) In order to promote active cooperation amongst interdisciplinary teams of researchers to support sustainable biomechanics initiatives, I recommended reviewing the Memorandum of Understanding template that can be downloaded from the EDC webpage. Felipe also reported that he had received inquiries about exchange opportunities and foreign study at the Masters and PhD levels in Brazil and other Latin American countries.

Following the ISB-EDC presentation, Jose announced the inauguration of the Colombian Association of Biomechanics, with himself as the first elected President. Congratulations to Jose, his Executive Council, and all members who are paving the way for biomechanists in Colombia and Latin America.

Figure 3 Andrea Hemmerich presenting via web link at ICB in Medellín, Colombia, November 2013.

Figure 3 Andrea Hemmerich presenting via web link at ICB in Medellín, Colombia, November 2013.

The potential for biomechanics research, education, and clinical application in these parts of the world is immense. Not only are EDC researchers and their collaborators worldwide making valuable contributions to our current body of knowledge, they are leading groundbreaking research in areas of biomechanics particular to their own regions. The international biomechanics community has much to gain from the growth of biomechanics in developing regions and I am thrilled to know that our ISB-EDC colleagues in Colombia and India are making it happen.

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EDC workshop at the ISB2013 congress in Brazil

Posted on September 27, 2013

A participatory approach to promoting biomechanics in Economically Developing Countries (EDCs)

In order to identify, address, and ultimately overcome the challenges in expanding biomechanics in EDCs, we invited ISB members who were currently or had been previously engaged in biomechanics work in developing countries to participate in an ISB-EDC Workshop during the ISB2013 Congress. By cooperatively developing capacity-building strategies, we hoped to find new opportunities to support our EDC members in their research and teaching related endeavors, and ultimately increase the impact of the ISB-EDC Program. Of the 37 ISB members who were invited to attend, eleven were able to participate in the morning event.

The time available for the workshop – 3 ½ hours – was limited considering what we wanted to achieve with participants from all over the world, many of whom had never met one another before. I felt confidant that we would realize our specific goals for the workshop, however, since these individuals has previously demonstrated their dedication to the ISB and to the promotion of biomechanics in EDCs.