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Re: What does the word race really mean?

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  • Re: What does the word race really mean?

    Dear all:

    Well, I seem to be the person who brought up the racial issue. I
    had better add some points to clarify matters.

    Does the concept of race have any value in biomechanics? It seems
    to me that we should ask when or why the biomechanics researchers need
    to study the effect of race in the first place.

    The beauty of biomechanics, from my point of view, is that it is
    helpful to develop some preventive or therapeutic measures which might
    decrease the incidence of dysfunction. Starting with the results of
    epidemiological studies is a direct way to do this. If significant
    differences between two broad spectrums of population were reported in
    some dysfunction which the mechanical factors might account for, it is
    from the biomechanical point of view worthwhile to go further. In such
    circumstances, it is necessary to follow the SAME grouping criteria
    which were used in the epidemiological literature with significant
    findings in respect of the differences in prevalence of dysfunction
    among different racial groups. Will this approach reduce the value of
    these biomechanical studies? It is reasonable to suggest that the
    value of the latter resides less in a debate over the finer points of
    terminology and more in the resutls which tell us about differences
    between recognizable and generally accepted categories of human
    populations. If it is a fact that some similar characteristics exist
    within a certain, recognizable group of people, we might be able to
    benefit from using biomechanical analysis. The value of grouping by
    race is seen to be as legitimate as is that by gender.

    It is true that the concept of race is multifactoral and the
    racial divide and the notion of a "pure" racial group are unclear. It
    is possible that an American born Asian might have different
    anthropomorphic features from an "native" Asian. However, if we can
    take these into consideration by adjusting the confounding factors or by
    using the concept of study control, the results can perhaps still
    provide valuable information.

    There are indeed differences between members of the same race,
    such as that which was interestingly referred to, albeit with tongue in
    cheek, namely that not all Caucasian sit and not all Asian squat on the
    toilet. However, it is because these differences can hardly attribute
    to one single explanation that the exploration of why differences in the
    prevalence of dysfunction exist among different races is attractive and
    challenging to researchers in biomechanics. The differences in motor
    control among different races, no matter whether these result from
    social influence, diet or genetic factor, might domonstrate some
    practical information in biomechanics, provided that the anthropometric
    data is adjusted. In this lies the beauty of biomechanics, for there is
    always a hope that people can be taught to change their motor control.


    Wen-ling Chen, M.S. P.T.
    Lecturer, Physical Therapy Department, National Cheng Kung University,
    D.Phi. student, Oxford Orthopaedic Engineering Centre, University of

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