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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Snow sport head injury : characterization of clinical presentation and design of a relevant head impact apparatus Stuart, Cameron Andrew


With head injury being the leading cause of death from skiing and snowboarding in North America, a better understanding of the mechanisms at play and improved preventative measures are necessary. Safety certification standards exist for snow sport helmets in an effort to evaluate potential technologies as well as ensure helmets offer protection to the user. However, current protocols are seen to be oversimplifications of real world head impacts, particularly from skiing and snowboarding. The purpose of this work is to mechanistically characterize snow sport head injury and design a test apparatus capable of representing these real world head impact scenarios. In an effort to characterize the fall mechanisms and injuries of snow sport head impact, a clinical investigation was performed. A 6 year retrospective clinical case review yielded a database of 760+ incidents for which basic demographic information, gross mechanism detail, nature and severity of injuries sustained and helmet use data was collected. In addition to epidemiological insight, the database highlighted the need for a revised standard testing protocol through observation of several general fall scenarios, a high prevalence of concussion (considered a low-energy injury) and the majority of impacts occurring to snow or ice surfaces. This information, in conjunction with existing biomechanics literature, informed the design of a helmet testing apparatus capable of recreating snow sport head impact mechanisms. Through a formal design process involving stakeholder discovery, development of design requirements, concept generation and evaluation, and detailed design, a final apparatus was decided upon and fabricated. To investigate if the test apparatus was capable of satisfying the requirements set forth, namely impact velocity and repeatability, verification testing was performed. Recommendations are made for conditions that remained either partially met or unmet. To address the need for an improved understanding of snow sport head injury mechanisms in the context of helmet testing, clinical data and existing literature was used. As a result, a test apparatus capable of more representative impact testing protocols was developed. Aspects of this work can be adopted by the head injury research and helmet standards communities in order to improve design and evaluation of preventative equipment.

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