Pediatric Head and Neck Dynamics in Frontal Impact: Analysis of Important Mechanical Factors and Proposed Neck Performance Corridors for 6- and 10-Year-Old ATDs
Objective: Traumatic injuries are the leading cause of death of children aged 1–19 in the United States and are principally caused by motor vehicle collisions, with the head being the primary region injured. The neck, though not commonly injured, governs head kinematics and thus influences head injury. Vehicle improvements necessary to reduce these injuries are evaluated using anthropomorphic testing devices (ATDs). Current pediatric ATD head and neck properties were established by scaling adult properties using the size differences between adults and children. Due to the limitations of pediatric biomechanical research, computational models are the only available methods that combine all existing data to produce injury-relevant biofidelity specifications for ATDs. The purpose of this study is to provide the first frontal impact biofidelity corridors for neck flexion response of 6- and 10-year-olds using validated computational models, which are compared to the Hybrid III (HIII) ATD neck responses and the Mertz flexion corridors.
Methods: Our virtual 6- and 10-year-old head and neck multibody models incorporate pediatric biomechanical properties obtained from pediatric cadaveric and radiological studies, include the effect of passive and active musculature, and are validated with data including pediatric volunteer 3 g dynamic frontal impact responses. We simulate ATD pendulum tests—used to calibrate HIII neck bending stiffness—to compare the pediatric model and HIII ATD neck bending stiffness and to compare the model flexion bending responses with the Mertz scaled neck flexion corridors. Additionally, pediatric response corridors for pendulum calibration tests and high-speed (15 g) frontal impacts are estimated through uncertainty analyses on primary model variables, with response corridors calculated from the average ± SD response over 650 simulations.
Results and Conclusions: The models are less stiff in dynamic anterioposterior bending than the ATDs; the secant stiffness of the 6- and 10-year-old models is 53 and 67 percent less than that of the HIII ATDs. The ATDs exhibit nonlinear stiffening and the models demonstrate nonlinear softening. Consequently, the models do not remain within the Mertz scaled flexion bending corridors. The more compliant model necks suggest an increased potential for head impact via larger head excursions. The pediatric anterioposterior bending corridors developed in this study are extensible to any frontal loading condition through calculation and sensitivity analysis. The corridors presented in this study are the first based on pediatric cadaveric data and provide the basis for future, more biofidelic, designs of 6- and 10-year-old ATD necks.