Michael Jackson's antigravity tilt -- Talent, magic, or a bit of both?

May 22, 2018

Charlottesville, VA (May 22, 2018). When was the last time you watched a Michael Jackson music video? If your answer is "never" or "not for quite a while," you are really missing a treat. According to Rolling Stone, "No single artist ... shaped, innovated or defined the medium of 'music video' more than Michael Jackson."

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, MTV had only one format--music videos--and that genre really took off when Jackson burst on the scene in 1983 with his musical hit "Billie Jean." Prior to his arrival on MTV, most videos were merely visual promos for artists' songs, and in some cases the visual side of the promos detracted from the music. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, took his incredible music and added story lines, special effects, cinematography, and amazing choreography. He created high-budget brief movies highlighting both music and dance.

And about that dance. . . . Jackson executed dance moves we thought impossible, at the time and even now. Almost every fan tried to dance like him, but very few could pull it off. Some of Jackson's dance moves appear to defy the laws of gravity. In one move featured in his 1987 music video "Smooth Criminal," he pitches forward 45 degrees, with his body straight as a rod and his shoes resting on the stage, and holds the position. That is not how the human body works! How did Michael Jackson do it? Was it talent, magic, or both?

Three neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India--Nishant S. Yagnick, Manjul Tripathi, and Sandeep Mohindra--set out to examine the antigravity tilt introduced in "Smooth Criminal" from a neurosurgeon's point of view.

First, Yagnick et al. walk us through some basics of spinal biomechanics to show just how impressive is the feat. Even the strongest of dancers can only maintain a 25- to 30-degree forward tilt from the ankle.

Admitted fans of Jackson, the neurosurgeons document how the antigravity tilt was accomplished, taking into account the talent and core strength of the artist, as well as his inventiveness and use of a patented aid, that together seem to move his body past human limits. They also warn other neurosurgeons of new forms of spinal injuries, as dancers follow Jackson's example and attempt "to jump higher, stretch further, and turn faster than ever before."

The full story on the antigravity tilt is published today in a new article in the Journal of Neurosurgery entitled "How did Michael Jackson challenge our understanding of spine biomechanics?".

Read the article soon. This is one of those mysteries where the solution is as fascinating as the performance. After you've read the article, you may want to go to YouTube and check out "Smooth Criminal" and other Michael Jackson music videos.

When asked about his article, Dr. Tripathi said, "MJ has inspired generations of dancers to push themselves beyond their limits. Though a visual delight, such moves also lead to new forms of musculoskeletal injuries. "The King of Pop" has not only been an inspiration but a challenge to the medical fraternity."
-end-
Yagnick NS, Tripathi M, Mohindra S: How did Michael Jackson challenge our understanding of spine biomechanics? Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, published online, ahead of print, May 22, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.2.SPINE171443.

Disclosure: The authors report no conflict of interest. The corresponding author, Manjul Tripathi, M.Ch., may be contacted by email: drmanjultripathi@gmail.com.

For additional information, please contact: Ms. Jo Ann M. Eliason, Communications Manager, Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group, One Morton Drive, Suite 200, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Email: jaeliason@thejns.org; Phone: 434-982-1209.

The Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine is a monthly peer-reviewed journal focused on neurosurgical approaches to treatment of diseases and disorders of the spine. It contains a variety of articles, including descriptions of preclinical and clinical research as well as case reports and technical notes. The Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine is one of four monthly journals published by the JNS Publishing Group, the scholarly journal division of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Other peer-reviewed journals published by the JNS Publishing Group each month include the Journal of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgical Focus, and the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics. All four journals can be accessed at http://www.thejns.org.

Founded in 1931 as the Harvey Cushing Society, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is a scientific and educational association with more than 10,000 members worldwide. The AANS is dedicated to advancing the specialty of neurological surgery in order to provide the highest quality of neurosurgical care to the public. All active members of the AANS are certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Neurosurgery) of Canada or the Mexican Council of Neurological Surgery, AC. Neurological surgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders that affect the entire nervous system including the brain, spinal column, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. For more information, visit http://www.AANS.org.

Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group

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