In Dr. Ray's Blog


By Matthew J. DeGaetano, DC and Dr. Raymond Tolmos, DC, DABCI

Certified in Whiplash and Brain Traumatology

Certified Colossus Consultant



Based on the frontal airbag OOP injury data, the Technical Working Group (TWG) believes neck injuries will be the most critical out of position (OOP) injury risk from side airbags. Experience with frontal airbags indicates that rupture of the connective tissues between the head and neck (occipital condyles – atlas region) is a primary cause of the fatalities observed among OOP children and adults. Accordingly, the TWG considered a number of neck injury indicators that can be measured at the upper neck load cells of the dummy necks.


One approach is to impose limits on the peak force and moment values that are measured by

the upper neck load transducer located at the dummy’s head/neck interface, occipital condyles.

Limit values for these measurements were proposed by AAMA (1998) for OOP assessment of frontal airbags.


A second approach is to place limits on an index. The Neck Injury Risk (Nij) combines the effects of the forces and moments as was proposed by Prasad and Daniel (1984) for tension and extension moment. In its rulemaking activities regarding the assessment of OOP injury risk from frontal airbags, NHTSA proposed using the Nij concept and extended the analysis to include the combinations of tension-flexion, compression-flexion, and compression-extension. In its

comments on the NHTSA proposal, the Alliance (1999) developed injury risk curves for the

combined effect of tension-extension moment based on its re-analysis of the animal

injury/dummy response correlation data of Mertz et al. (1982) and Prasad and Daniel (1984).

The Alliance recommended setting the limit for tension-extension moment at 2 percent risk of

AIS ≥3 neck injury. The 5 percent risk line was not chosen as the limit line because 5 animals

with AIS ≥3 neck injury were below the 5 percent limit line. There were no animals with AIS ≥3

neck injury below the proposed 2 percent limit line.


In addition, the Alliance was concerned that the Nij concept allowed high axial forces when the

bending moments were low. Because the most sensitive indicator of animal neck injury was

peak neck tension (Mertz et al., 1997), the Alliance proposed to limit peak tension and peak compression. The limits for peak neck tension were set at 3 percent risk of AIS ≥3 neck injury.

The limits for peak neck compression were set at the currently used Injury Assessment

Reference Values (IARV). These peak force limits are the same as those proposed by AAMA

(1998). NHTSA agreed with the Alliance proposal and incorporated these limits into FMVSS

208 for regulating the OOP performance of frontal airbags.


The TWG reviewed the two approaches and chose to use the combined index, Nij=1 and the

peak force limits, that were proposed by the Alliance and are now the upper neck limit

requirement of FMVSS 208 for OOP regulation of frontal airbags. The intercept values of the

Nij limit lines and the peak tension and peak compression limit values are given in Table 2.

Some manufacturers and suppliers have expressed concern that extension and flexion bending

moments measured on a dummy in a given test may not always reflect neck injury risk to the

corresponding human. As noted above, injury risk assessment on anthropomorphic dummies is

a reasonable surrogate for assessing injury risks to humans and it is widely used in the

automotive engineering community. It is, nevertheless, an imperfect science that occasionally

yields invalid results for a variety of reasons. For this reason, the TWG agreed in general that

whenever a test result is obtained in excess of a reference value, and if there is reason to

question the validity of this result, the manufacturer (or other testing entity) should use

additional analyses to assess the validity of the result. If, however, the result is validated, then

appropriate countermeasures should be pursued.


Therefore, if a manufacturer or other testing entity obtains an extension or flexion bending moment in excess of the reference values and has reason to question the validity of that result, the response should be the same as the general guidance adopted by the TWG; namely, to use additional analyses to assess the validity of the result and, if the result is validated, to take appropriate actions

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