American football reports high incidences of head injuries, in particular, concussion. Research has described concussion as primarily a rotation dominant injury affecting the diffuse areas of brain tissue. Current standards do not measure how helmets manage rotational acceleration or how acceleration loading curves influence brain deformation from an impact and thus are missing important information in terms of how concussions occur. The purpose of this study was to investigate a proposed three-dimensional impact protocol for use in evaluating football helmets. The dynamic responses resulting from centric and non-centric impact conditions were examined to ascertain the influence they have on brain deformations in different functional regions of the brain that are linked to concussive symptoms. A centric and non-centric protocol was used to impact an American football helmet; the resulting dynamic response data was used in conjunction with a three-dimensional finite element analysis of the human brain to calculate brain tissue deformation. The direction of impact created unique loading conditions, resulting in peaks in different regions of the brain associated with concussive symptoms. The linear and rotational accelerations were not predictive of the brain deformation metrics used in this study. In conclusion, the test protocol used in this study revealed that impact conditions influences the region of loading in functional regions of brain tissue that are associated with the symptoms of concussion. The protocol also demonstrated that using brain deformation metrics may be more appropriate when evaluating risk of concussion than using dynamic response data alone.
Keywords: American football; concussion; finite element modelling; impact biomechanics; standards.