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How King of Pop Michael Jackson leant 45° without falling over

  
  
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  Three decades later, three neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh have deciphered the biomechanics that enabled Jackson to perform a move that not many other dancers could be expected to match. In 1987, Michael Jackson seemingly defied gravity in the video of his song Smooth Criminal, when he leant 45° forward, his spine straight, with only his feet preventing him from falling over. Three decades later, three neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh have deciphered the biomechanics that enabled Jackson to perform a move that not many other dancers could be expected to match. The study, ‘How did Michael Jackson challenge our understanding of spine biomechanics?’ by Nishant S Yagnick, Manjul Tripathi, and Sandeep Mohindra, was published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery Tuesday. So, how did Jackson manage it? With a combination of two factors, the doctors say. One was a specially designed shoe, patented by Jackson’s team, that supported him in that position by hitching him to the stage. Two, the sheer strength in Jackson’s tendons. Otherwise, the doctors believe, even the strongest and best trained dancers can go up to a maximum of only 25° to 30° while bending forward. When a person stands with his or her back straight, the centre of gravity is in front of the second sacral vertebra (lower part of the spine). When the person bends forward with the back straight, the hip joints act as a fulcrum, on which the body moves forward. The muscles of the back support the spine and act as a cable while the body makes its movements. This helps in maintaining balance without the body falling forward. “However, when the fulcrum for forward bending is shifted to the ankle joints, the erector spinae (muscles supporting the back and vertebral column) lose their ability to maintain the centre of gravity, and strain is shifted to the Achilles tendon,” the doctors said in the study.
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