With the help of a constructed surrogate head with many sensors, the researchers hope to gain knowledge of what is happening in the brain during trauma to the head. In this way, even better safety equipment can be designed that protects against both collision and rotation.
The development has come a long way in terms of helmet safety, but there is still a significant number of accidents within sports, motor biking and other activities with a potential risk for head injuries.
In many cases head impacts produce injuries without immediately recognized symptoms. Such injuries can lead to serious consequences if not treated properly and in time. Often the doctors do not have a complete picture of the events that led to the accident and what kind of trauma the head have been exposed to.
Though modern electronics allow us making such compact devices, we cannot connect the signals measured on the helmet to what is happening inside the head under impacts of different kind. Modern knowledge of processes in the head and brain during impacts is mainly gained from mathematical modeling, and it lacks experimental proof. For obvious reasons real experiments using humans or even animals are not possible.
A modern way forward in such situation is "physical modeling", or making "surrogates" of the real objects (in our case a human head, with scull, brain and cranial fluid) in the shapes and materials mimicking the reality as good as possible. A surrogate human head have been designed and constructed in cooperation with exchange students and colleagues from Padova University, Italy. At the moment it is the "most instrumented" dummy head in the world, allowing us to "see" the fast events happening during the real impacts and evaluate the level of protection provided by different helmets. An advanced 3D printer has been used to develop the instrumented dummy head.
In tests, the surrogate human head is provided with safety equipment and sensors, and then exposed to different types of strokes. The sensors then measure and reconstruct how the brain moves and full motion dynamics and actings forces. This makes it possible to see what the person has been exposed to, for example small and rapid events in the brain, and evaluate what protection different types of helmets provide. The ideal would be to find a solution similar to the aircraft's "black box" mounted in the helmet that can record accidents.
The aim of the research is to be able to develop even better safety equipment for outdoor activities, such as ski helmets.
The project is funded by Rolf and Gunilla Enströms Foundation for Research and Development.
Sports Tech Research Centre at Mid Sweden University, Padova University, Italy and a number of helmet manufacturers and MIPS.