The Development, Validation and Application of a Finite Element Upper Extremity Model Subjected to Air Bag Loading 2003-22-0004
Both frontal and side air bags can inflict injuries to the upper extremities in cases where the limb is close to the air bag module at the time of impact. Current dummy limbs show qualitatively correct kinematics under air bag loading, but they lack biofidelity in long bone bending and fracture. Thus, an effective research tool is needed to investigate the injury mechanisms involved in air bag loading and to judge the improvements of new air bag designs. The objective of this study is to create an efficient numerical model that exhibits both correct global kinematics as well as localized tissue deformation and initiation of fracture under various impact conditions. The development of the model includes the creation of a sufficiently accurate finite element mesh, the adaptation of material properties from literature into constitutive models and the definition of kinematic constraints at articular joint locations. In order to make the model applicable for full-scale simulations, it was coupled with a computationally efficient human model. The model was validated against available cadaver experiments, including static and dynamic three-point-bending tests to the arm and forearm, as well as frontal air bag to forearm impact tests. The sensitivity of the model to changes in air bag properties and upper limb orientation are demonstrated by performing parametric studies. It is shown that the risk of forearm fracture increases substantially with proximity to the deploying frontal air bag and air bag aggressiveness, which corresponds to experimental findings. However, it is shown that increasing the forearm supination angle is protective for the occurrence of forearm fracture. In conclusion, the developed model proves to be a useful research tool to investigate trends in injury severity as a result of a changing frontal air bag to upper extremity loading environment.