Reza Partovi’s MSc Thesis Proposal

Title: “Human Head-neck Biomechanical Response to an Active Anti-whiplash Automotive Seat”

Supervisor: Dr. Jean-Sébastien Blouin
Committee members: Dr. Gunter Siegmund, Dr. Calvin Kuo

Abstract: Whiplash injuries usually occur following rear-end vehicle collisions and have been a focus area of biomechanical research for decades. Although mainly classified as a mild injury, whiplash is a substantial financial burden for the health care system because of its high prevalence and costs. A range of anti-whiplash seats have been introduced, however, field performance studies showed that none of them could reduce whiplash injury incidences by more than 50%.

Mang et al. developed an active anti-whiplash car seat capable of real-time adjustment of seat hinge angle and cushion deformation. A comparison between the developed experimental car seat and WHIPS and SAHR car seats showed that the co-activation of seat hinge rotation and cushion deformation could significantly decrease all kinematic response by 25 – 89% for collision speeds of 4km/h or higher. Due to the anthropometric variability in human occupants, it is not clear whether human volunteers’ kinematic and muscle responses will be affected when seated in an active anti-whiplash car seat.

We hypothesize that using the two strategies presented above, namely active deformation of the seatback’s cushion and active rotation of the seat hinge, can help attenuate the occupant’s biomechanical responses compared to two control seats: WHIPS and GMHR seats. Healthy participants (six males and six females) will be exposed to low speed rear-end collisions (4 km/hr speed change) and the kinematics of the head and neck will be determined from 3D motion capturing and accelerometry. Neuromuscular responses of the multifidus, splenius (indwelling EMG), sternocleidomastoid, and paraspinal (surface EMG) muscles will be measured with electromyography, and each muscle’s activation level and onset time will be quantified. The kinematic and muscle activity will be compared using within-subject repeated measures ANOVA to test any differences between the experimental and the two control seats. This study’s results contribute to our understanding of how the occupant reacts to anti-whiplash mechanisms and can reveal novel strategies for preventing whiplash injuries.