The Development of a System Using Triaxial Accelerometers to Measure Head Motion and Energy Exposure During High Velocity Vehicular Impact

Principal Investigator: Stephen E. Olvey, M.D.

Institution: Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami School of Medicine, 1501 N.W. 9th Avenue, Miami, FL 33136

The Development of a System Using Triaxial Accelerometers to Measure Head Motion and Energy Exposure During High Velocity Vehicular Impact

Update

Head injury is a serious safety concern in motorsports. In Indy car events from 1985 – 1989, 367 crashes occurred involving 413 drivers, 38 of these drivers sustained 48 injuries. Despite the use of helmets and other safety equipment, 29.2% of these injuries were closed head injuries. One of the most severe types of closed head injuries, diffuse axonal injury (DAI), occurs as a result of high velocity acceleration/ deceleration of the head with a rotational component that may cause widespread neuroanatomical and neurophysiological damage. Athletes in a variety of sports who survive this type of injury can be afflicted with persistent neurological deficits.

Triaxial Accelerometers have been widely used in laboratory crash testing to measure force and head rotation of dummies in passenger vehicles. We propose to develop this system for use in a professional motorsports setting. Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) cars are currently equipped with crash recorders which monitor the overall movement of the car. However, it is known that the driver’s body does not follow the motion of the car, nor does the driver’s head follow the motion of his own body. By applying triaxial accelerometer technology directly to the driver’s head, we will correlate measurements of motion and force with clinical data that is collected routinely in the event of a crash.

The purpose of this study is 1) to establish a mechanism for obtaining precise measurements of the head movement in a high-speed racing environment. Our long range objective, in automobile racing, is to correlate this information with clinical data, and to use the information to improve vehicle seating, restraint systems and protective gear design and 2) to apply this technology to other athletic endeavors where the reduction of head injuries is an objective.

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