5 Things I Learned About Biomechanics By Falling Down A Comically Large Flight Of Stairs

As a political science major in undergrad, I never learned much about the mechanics of the human body. But after tripping and falling down an exorbitantly long staircase, I learned a few things:

1. The Cytoskeleton is a network of fibrous proteins whose primary purpose is to maintain cell shape.

It also provides strength and cellular integrity, as well as a track for several transport proteins. As I was tumbling endlessly down this seemingly endless stairway, it occurred to me just how important these little proteins are, silently working and never asking for any thanks or recognition!

2. When modeling a bio-mechanical system using a bearing support, there is no reactionary axial force.

Falling end-over-end for several minutes provided me with ample time to contemplate the nature of the different kinds of supports that can be used to model biological systems. I realized, as my wrist served as the focal point for my umpteenth rotation, that when using a bearing support, only two dimensions of reaction force are present, and only in the non-axial direction.

3. Injury can be avoided by increasing the time a body has to react to an applied force

Based on the principles of impulse and conservation of momentum, a body reacting to a force is less likely to experience damage if reaction time is increased. This became relevant to me as I encountered a 100-step long carpeted sequence on the stairway. The carpet provided extra cushioning that allowed the force experienced by my broken, battered body to dissipate over a longer time period, somewhat decreasing the still-massive amounts of bodily harm I experienced.

4. Beam supports can experience both tension and compression forces, but cables can undergo only tension

This point was elucidated to me numerous times over my comically long journey down the absurdly massive staircase. My bones, which can be modeled by beams, experienced monstrous amounts of compression, as evidenced by the dozens of stress fractures I’m currently dealing with. Conversely, the tendons in my limbs, modeled as cables, snapped only due to the tension forces they underwent as I attempted in vain to grasp rails in naive attempts to slow my descent.

5. The human body is only capable of falling down small-to-moderate-sized staircases without sustaining grievous injury

The staircase I tumbled down was big as a motherfucker, and I’ve got the incredibly severe prognosis to attest for the fact that people are designed to safely fall down staircases of 20, 30 stairs maximum. If any readers encounter such a comically Brobdingnagian monstrosity of a stairway as I did, I would strongly encourage them to descend slowly and carefully.


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