Improved human soft tissue thigh surrogates for superior assessment of sports personal protective equipment
2015-06-19T13:55:52Z (GMT) by
Human surrogates are representations of living humans, commonly adopted to better understand human response to impacts. Though surrogates have been widely used in automotive, defence and medical industries with varying levels of biofidelity, their primary application in the sporting goods industry has been through primitive rigid anvils used in assessing personal protective equipment (PPE) effectiveness. In sports, absence from competition is an important severity measure and soft tissue injuries such as contusions and lacerations are serious concerns. Consequently, impact surrogates for the sporting goods industry need a more subtle description of the relevant soft tissues to assess impact severity and mitigation accurately to indicate the likelihood of injury. The fundamental aim for this research study was to establish a method to enable the development of superior, complementary, increasingly complex synthetic and computational impact surrogates for improved assessment of sports personal protective equipment. With a particular focus on the thigh segment, research was conducted to evaluate incremental increases in surrogate complexity. Throughout this study, empirical assessment of synthetic surrogates and computational evaluation using finite element (FE) models were employed to further knowledge on design features influencing soft tissue surrogates in a cost and time efficient manner. To develop a more representative human impact surrogate, the tissue structures considered, geometries and materials were identified as key components influencing the mechanical response of surrogates. As a design tool, FE models were used to evaluate the changes in impact response elicited with different soft tissue layer configurations. The study showed the importance of skin, adipose, muscle and bone tissue structures and indicated up to 15.4% difference in maximum soft tissue displacement caused by failure to represent the skin layer. FE models were further used in this capacity in a shape evaluation study from which it was determined that a full-scale anatomically contoured thigh was necessary to show the full diversity of impact response phenomena exhibited. This was particularly pertinent in PPE evaluations where simple surrogate shapes significantly underestimated the magnitudes of displacements exhibited (up to 155% difference) when rigid shell PPE was simulated under impact conditions. Synthetic PDMS silicone simulants were then fabricated for each of the organic soft tissues to match their dynamic responses. The developed simulants exhibited a superior representation of the tissues when compared to previous single material soft tissue simulant, Silastic 3483, which showed 324%, 11,140% and -15.8% greater differences than the PDMS when compared to previously reported target organic tissue datasets for relaxed muscle, skin and adipose tissues respectively. The impact response of these PDMS surrogates were compared in FE models with previously used single material simulants in representative knee and cricket ball sports impact events. The models were each validated through experimental tests and the PDMS simulants were shown to exhibit significantly closer responses to organic tissue predictions across all impact conditions and evaluation metrics considered. An anatomically contoured synthetic thigh surrogate was fabricated using the PDMS soft tissue simulants through a novel multi-stage moulding process. The surrogate was experimentally tested under representative sports impact conditions and showed a good comparison with FE model predictions with a maximum difference in impactor displacements and peak accelerations of +6.86% and +12.5% respectively at velocities between 2 - 4 m.s-1. The value of increased biofidelity in the anatomical synthetic and virtual surrogate thighs has been proven through the incremental adoption of important surrogate elements (tissue structures, material and geometries). The predictive capabilities of each surrogate have been demonstrated through their parallel developments and staged comparisons with idealised organic tissue responses. This increase in biofidelity is introduced at modestly higher cost compared to Silastic 3483, but, given the benefits of a more representative human impact response for PPE evaluations, this is shown to be worthwhile.