Status: Funded - Open
Reducing the risk of pediatric mTBI through airbag helmets
Mehmet Kurt, PhD
BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of disability and death in children and adolescents in the U.S. Although contact sports elicit most of the media attention, bicycling is the leading cause of sports-related TBI among children, accounting for about 40,000 injuries every year.
GAP: Most currently used bike helmets are made of extended polystyrene (EPS) foam with a thin plastic shell. Studies have shown that although wearing the EPS helmet decreases the risk of severe head injury by approximately 75% among children, the reduction in mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) rates is statistically insignificant.
HYPOTHESIS: My hypothesis is that the risk of pediatric mild brain injuries during bicycle accidents can be reduced through the implementation of soft, expandable helmets.
METHODS: We will conduct drop test experiments with a dummy head and neck at various heights with different head impact orientations and for both airbag (with different pressure levels) and EPS foam helmets. The kinematic information of the dummy head with standard EPS foam and airbag helmets obtained in these experiments will be used to carry out finite element simulations of the brain in response to the impact. Optimum pressure levels that minimize strain levels in the brain, which correlates with mTBI risk, will be determined for the airbag helmet at different impact conditions.
IMPACT: I aim to reduce trauma in children during helmeted activities through improved helmet technology for prevention of mild brain trauma including concussions. The study has the potential to influence the design of novel helmets for children and place the “protection of the brain” as the main criteria for helmet design.