The effect of muscle activation on neck response.Traffic Inj Prev. 2005 Mar; 6(1):67-76.TI
Prevention of neck injuries due to complex loading, such as occurs in traffic accidents, requires knowledge of neck injury mechanisms and tolerances. The influence of muscle activation on outcome of the injuries is not clearly understood. Numerical simulations of neck injury accidents can contribute to increase the understanding of injury tolerances. The finite element (FE) method is suitable because it gives data on stress and strain of individual tissues that can be used to predict injuries based on tissue level criteria. The aim of this study was to improve and validate an anatomically detailed FE model of the human cervical spine by implement neck musculature with passive and active material properties. Further, the effect of activation time and force on the stresses and strains in the cervical tissues were studied for dynamic loading due to frontal and lateral impacts. The FE model used includes the seven cervical vertebrae, the spinal ligaments, the facet joints with cartilage, the intervertebral disc, the skull base connected to a rigid head, and a spring element representation of the neck musculature. The passive muscle properties were defined with bilinear force-deformation curves and the active properties were defined using a material model based on the Hill equation. The FE model's responses were compared to volunteer experiments for frontal and lateral impacts of 15 and 7 g. Then, the active muscle properties where varied to study their effect on the motion of the skull, the stress level of the cortical and trabecular bone, and the strain of the ligaments. The FE model had a good correlation to the experimental motion corridors when the muscles activation was implemented. For the frontal impact a suitable peak muscle force was 40 N/cm2 whereas 20 N/cm2 was appropriate for the side impact. The stress levels in the cortical and trabecular bone were influenced by the point forces introduced by the muscle spring elements; therefore a more detailed model of muscle insertion would be preferable. The deformation of each spinal ligament was normalized with an appropriate failure deformation to predict soft tissue injury. For the frontal impact, the muscle activation turned out to mainly protect the upper cervical spine ligaments, while the musculature shielded all the ligaments disregarding spinal level for lateral impacts. It is concluded that the neck musculature does not have the same protective properties during different impacts loadings.