Injury Biomechanics


Injury Biomechanics is an essential field in the prevention or management of trauma related to injury of the human body. It is used in the development of products that interact with and protect people such as in motor vehicles (airbags and seatbelts), Personal Protective Equipment or PPE (helmets, neck braces etc.) as well as medical devices used in a prophylactic or preventative capacity such as medical osteoarthritic knee braces. Even the development of high-tech running shoes may fall under the ambit of injury biomechanics. Experts in Injury Biomechanics are also often called into legal liability cases to deliver expert testimony on the causation of injuries related to potential design flaws in products such as ladders, car airbags or PPE.

Injury Biomechanics is the science relating the deformation of human tissue past its mechanical failure limit (resulting in subsequent clinical injury) to a mechanical causation using mechanistic classifications closely related to engineering mechanics. These mechanistic classifications have been determined and tabulated over years of research and cadaveric studies. Knowing mechanistic causation allows Engineers to quantify injuries either through experimental or numerical analysis on the anatomical region of interest by measuring the forces, bending moments and/or other biomechanical parameters occurring in these regions (e.g. in specific joints, head, neck etc. of a Anthropomorphic Test Dummy or ATD.) in response to an applied load. Having quantified the required parameters, the likelihood or risk of a specific injury can be determined by relating measured force parameters to established injury criteria or Injury Assessment Reference Values (IARV’s). Furthermore, the clinical risk of specific injuries can be quantified by using established risk curves related to the risk of specific Abbreviated Injury Score (AIS) values (e.g. risk of AIS 2+ for upper neck injury) or Injury Severity Score (ISS) values. A component of Injury Biomechanics also involves determining injury thresholds and IARV’s through experimental testing and in this way may contribute to available literature and improved product development.

Injury Biomechanics require a fundamental understanding of Anatophysiology and clinical injuries associated with a specific body region as well as a thorough understanding of mechanics as it relates to vectors, force diagrams and impact mechanics.

Examples of projects may include:

  • The development of advanced prophylactic neck protection for helmeted or un-helmeted extreme sports.
  • The “adjacent-level” effect of constraining injury prevention to one area of the body.
  • Freedom vs. Constraint of the head and neck – the effect on axial force, bending moment, shear force, Neck Injury Criteria, brain acceleration and complete biomechanical effect in the cervical spine and adjacent structures.
  • The development of an application-specific Neck Injury Criteria.
  • The design of a helmet to reduce injuries associated with rotational acceleration of the brain.
  • Can brain injuries be reduced by protecting the neck?

For more information contact:

Mr Cornel de Jongh
+27 (0) 21 808 4249

Research Areas: Injury Biomechanics