Impact Biomechanics of the Head and Neck in football
The research presented in the thesis explores the biomechanics of the head and neck during impacts in football. The research related to the head is geared towards advancing the current understanding of the mechanisms of mild traumatic brain injury, specifically by investigating head accelerations experienced by football players during impacts. To do this, a six degree of freedom sensor that could be integrated into existing football helmets and is capable of measuring linear and angular acceleration about each axis of the head was developed and validated. This sensor was then installed in the helmets of 10 Virginia Tech football players and data was recorded for every game and practice during the 2007 football season. A total 1712 impacts were recorded, creating a large and unbiased dataset. No instrumented player sustained a concussion during the 2007 season. From 2007 head acceleration dataset, 24 of the most severe impacts were modeled using a finite element head model, SIMon (Simulated Injury Monitor). Besides looking at head acceleration, the force transmitted to the mandible by chin straps in football helmets was investigated through impact testing. Little research has been conducted looking at the mandible-chin strap interface in the helmet, and this may be an area of helmet design that can be improved. The research presented in this thesis related to the neck is based on stingers. Football players wear neck collars to prevent stingers; however, their designs are largely based on empirical data, with little biomechanical testing. The load limiting capabilities of various neck collars were investigated through dynamic impact testing with anthropomorphic test devices. It was found that reductions in loads correlate with the degree to which each collar restricted motion of the head and neck. To investigate the differences in results that using different anthropomorphic test devices may present, the matched neck collar tests were performed with the Hybrid III and THOR-NT 50th percentile male dummies. The dummies exhibited the same trends, in that either a load was reduced or increased; however, each load was affected to a different degree.