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Head-neck biomechanics in simulated rear impact
Published October 05, 1998 by Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine in United States
The first objective of this study is to present an overview of the human cadaver studies aimed to determine the biomechanics of the head-neck in a simulated rear crash. The need for kinematic studies to better understand the mechanisms of load transfer to the human head-neck complex is emphasized. Based on this need, a methodology is developed to delineate the dynamic kinematics of the human head-neck complex. Intact human cadaver head-neck complexes were subjected to postero-anterior impact using a minisled pendulum device. The integrity of the soft tissues including the musculature and skin were maintained. The kinematic data were recorded using high-speed photography coupled with retroreflective targets placed at various regions of the human head-neck complex. The overall and segmental kinematics of the entire head-neck complex, and the localized facet joint motions were determined. During the initial stages of loading, a transient decoupling of the head occurred with respect to the neck exhibiting a lag of the cranium. The upper cervical spine- head undergoes local flexion concomitant with a lag of the head while the lower cervical spinal column is in local extension. This establishes a reverse curvature to the cervical head-neck complex. With continued loading, head motion ensures and approximately at the end of the loading phase, the entire head- neck complex is under the extension mode with a single curvature. In contrast, the lower cervical spine facet joint kinematics show varying compression and sliding. While both the anterior and posterior-most regions of the facet joint slide, the posterior-most region (mean: 2.84 mm) of the joint compresses more than the anterior-most (mean: 2.02 mm) region. These varying kinematics at the ends of the facet joint result in a pinching mechanism. These biomechanical kinematic findings may be correlated to the presence of headaches and neck pain (Lord, Bogduk et al, 1992; Barnsley, Lord et al., 1995), based on the unique human head-neck anatomy at the upper cervical spine region and the associated facet joint characteristics, and clinical studies.