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Human head-neck biomechanical response to an active anti-whiplash automotive seat Partovi, Reza


Whiplash injuries remain the most common injury associated with rear-end low-speed collisions despite improvements in head restraint designs and the introduction of innovative anti-whiplash seats. To address this problem, our research group developed an active car seat (RoboSeat) that controls seat hinge rotation and seatback cushion deformation. Preliminary experiments showed that the RoboSeat could reduce the kinematic and kinetic responses of an anthropometric test device. The aim of this study was to compare the performance of an actively controlled experimental anti-whiplash (RoboSeat) seat to passive control anti-whiplash seats in human volunteers: General Motor’s High Retention seat (GMHR) & Volvo’s Whiplash Protection Seat (WHIPS). Twelve healthy participants were exposed to a whiplash-like perturbation (4km/h speed change) while seated on each of the three seats. We recorded the electromyographic activity of sternocleidomastoid, neck paraspinals, splenius capitis, and multifidus along with the head/torso kinematics to quantify the participants’ responses to the whiplash-like perturbations. Given that excessive strain in cervical facet capsules is suggested as a cause of whiplash injury, we quantified cervical multifidus activation while head retraction occurred because both factors can potentially increase strains in the capsular ligaments. We hypothesized that the dynamic seatback rotation and cushion deformation of the RoboSeat prevents simultaneous activation of the neck multifidus muscle and head retraction. The RoboSeat reduced the combined multifidus activation and head retraction by 76% and 43% as well as 12/16 and 6/16 kinematic variables compared to the GMHR and WHIPS seats, respectively. Overall, our results suggest that the active seat can lower some head/torso kinematic responses compared to the current anti-whiplash seats and minimize combined activation of the multifidus muscle and head retraction. Our active RoboSeat represents a promising approach to potentially decrease the risk of whiplash injuries following low-speed rear-end collisions.

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