The biomechanical determinants of concussion: finite element simulations to investigate brain tissue deformations during sporting impacts to the unprotected head

J Appl Biomech. 2013 Dec;29(6):721-30. doi: 10.1123/jab.29.6.721. Epub 2013 Feb 20.


Concussion is an injury of specific interest in collision and contact sports, resulting in a need to develop effective preventive strategies. A detailed finite element model of the human head was used to approximate the regional distribution of tissue deformations in the brain by simulating reconstructions of unhelmeted concussion and no-injury head impacts. The results were evaluated using logistic regression analysis and it was found that angular kinematics, in the coronal plane, and maximum principal strains, in all regions of the brain, were significantly associated with concussion. The results suggested that impacts to the temporal region of the head cause coronal rotations, which render injurious strain levels in the brain. Tentative strain tolerance levels of 0.13, 0.15, and 0.26 in the thalamus, corpus callosum, and white matter, respectively, for a 50% likelihood of concussion were determined by logistic regression. The tentative strain tolerance levels compared well with previously reported results from reconstruction studies of American football and single axon, optic nerve, and brain slice culture model studies. The methods used in the current study provide an opportunity to collect unique kinematic data of sporting impacts to the unprotected head, which can be employed in various ways to broaden the understanding of concussion.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Compressive Strength
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Football / injuries*
  • Hardness
  • Head Protective Devices
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Sports Equipment
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength
  • Viscosity