Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Pediatric Biomechanics

crash dummies test how children’s bodies respond to and tolerate impact forces

Engineers around the world are conducting cutting-edge pediatric biomechanics research, which is crucial to filling the gaps in knowledge to understand the likelihood that a child will be injured in a high energy event such as a crash. The study of biomechanics is defined as the application of engineering mechanics to biological and medical systems. The pediatric biomechanics team at CIRP applies this scientific discipline to develop novel approaches that deliver basic data on how children’s bodies respond to and tolerate forces of a crash.

These pediatric biomechanics data are needed to improve specific body regions of the pediatric anthropometric test devices (ATDs), commonly referred to as crash test dummies, and to develop innovative restraint products to make vehicles safer for children in the future.

Areas of Pediatric Biomechanics Research:

  • Helmet-based Kinematics Measurement Systems--  By evaluating helmet-based kinematic measurement systems, this line of research first seeks to validate sensor-instrumented helmets for use in studying concussion in real-world scenarios.
  • Low Acceleration Time Extended Events (LATE). In a collaboration between CIRP@CHOP and Drexel University, this line of research aims to quantify the movement of motor vehicle occupants during pre-crash avoidance manuevers.
  • Head and Spinal Kinematics of Pediatric Volunteers and Comparison to ATD Response. Using a novel low-speed volunteer sled system, the kinematics of the head and spine of unrestrained child human volunteers were quantified in low-speed frontal crashes and compared to adults. Results show children demonstrate greater forward movement, head rotation, and spinal flexion than adults. Work is now being repeated for lateral and oblique impacts with a focus on understanding how the kinematics are related to the muscle activity that occurs during a crash event. In both studies, the human volunteer data is being compared to several age and size appropriate crash test dummies to quantify differences in dynamic response.
  • Determination of Pediatric Chest Stiffness Through Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Leveraging a novel device used on children receiving chest compressions for CPR, researchers are quantifying the chest's biomechanical response. A sensor that measures the force and amount of chest compression provides data for calculating chest stiffness. This information can then be compared to the chests of crash test dummies to ensure that they are child-like.
  • Clavicle Fractures Due to Belt Loading in Rear-seated Adolescent Occupants. Clavicle fractures due to shoulder belt contact in motor vehicle crash occupants are relatively common. This study investigates the pediatric clavicle's fracture tolerance through statistical, analytical, and radiological techniques using information from crash data to examine the sensitivity of the pediatric shoulder's response to belt loading in both oblique and frontal loading scenarios.