This paper presents a new analysis of the physics of closed head injury caused by intense acceleration of the head. At rest a 1 cm gap filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) separates the human brain from the skull. During impact whole head acceleration induces artificial gravity within the skull. Because its density differs slightly from that of CSF, the brain accelerates, strikes the inner aspect of the rigid skull, and undergoes viscoelastic deformation. Analytical methods for a lumped parameter model of the brain predict internal brain motions that correlate well with published high-speed photographic studies. The same methods predict a truncated hyperbolic strength-duration curve for impacts that produce a given critical compressive strain. A family of such curves exists for different critical strains. Each truncated hyperbolic curve defines a head injury criterion (HIC) or concussive threshold, which is little changed by small offsetting corrections for curvature of the brain and for viscous damping. Such curves predict results of experimental studies of closed head injury, known limits for safe versus dangerous falls, and the relative resistance of smaller versus larger animals to acceleration of the head. The underlying theory provides improved understanding of closed head injury and better guidance to designers of protective equipment and to those extrapolating research results from animals to man.


This is the author accepted manuscript version of Charles F. Babbs, A new biomechanical head injury criterion, Journal of Mechanics in Medicine and Biology, 6, 349-371. 2006. Copyright World Scientific, the version of record is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1142/S021951940600200X.


acceleration, biomechanics, brain, concussion, deformation, diffuse axonal injury, HIC, impact, shear, strain, threshold, tolerance

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