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Journal Article


Meng S, Cernicchi A, Kleiven S, Halldin P. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2019; 134: e105297.


Division of Neuronic Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Health Systems, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Huddinge, 141 52, Sweden; MIPS AB, Källtorpsvägen 2, Täby, 183 71, Sweden.


(Copyright © 2019, Elsevier Publishing)






The motorcyclist is exposed to the risk of falling and impacting ground head-first at a wide range of travelling speeds - from a speed limit of less than 50 km/h on the urban road to the race circuit where speed can reach well above 200 km/h. However, motorcycle helmets today are tested at a single and much lower impact speed, i.e. 30 km/h. There is a knowledge gap in understanding the dynamics and head impact responses at high travelling speeds due to the limitation of existing laboratory rigs. This study used a finite element head model coupled with a motorcycle helmet model to simulate head-first falls at travelling speed (or tangential velocity at impact) from 0 to 216 km/h. The effect of different falling heights (1.6 m and 0.25 m) and coefficient of frictions (0.20 and 0.45) between the helmet outer shell and ground were also examined. The simulation results were analysed together with the analytical model to better comprehend rolling and/or sliding phenomena that are often observed in helmet oblique impacts. Three types of helmet-to-ground interactions are found when the helmet impacts ground from low to high tangential velocities: (1) helmet rolling without slipping; (2) a combination of sliding and rolling; and (3) continuous sliding. The tangential impulse transmitted to the head-helmet system, peak angular head kinematics and brain strain increase almost linearly with the tangential velocity when the helmet rolls but plateaus when the helmet slides. The critical tangential velocity at which the motion transit from the rolling regime to the sliding regime depends on both the falling height and friction coefficient. Typically, for a fall height of 1.63 m and a friction coefficient of 0.45, the rolling/sliding transition occurs at a tangential velocity of 10.8 m/s (38.9 km/h). Low sliding resistance in helmet design, i.e. by the means of a lower friction coefficient between the helmet outer shell and ground, has shown a higher reduction of brain tissue strain in the sliding regime than in the rolling regime. This study uncovers the underlying dynamics of rolling and sliding phenomena in high-speed oblique impacts, which largely affect head impact biomechanics. Besides, the study highlights the importance of testing helmets at speeds covering both the rolling and sliding regime since potential designs for improved head protection at high-speed impacts can be more distinguishable in the sliding regime than in the rolling regime.

Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Language: en


Finite element method; Helmet; High-speed impact; Motorcycle; Sliding and rolling; Tissue strain; Traumatic brain injury


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