Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.B.E.

Degree Granting Department

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

John D. Lloyd, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

William E. Lee III, Ph.D.

Keywords

Falls, Biomechanics, Accelerometer, Head Injury Criteria (HIC), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Abstract

Falls among the elderly population continue to be a growing concern in the healthcare industry and are marked by staggeringly high social and economic costs. The incidence of falls is known to increase with age, and currently the elderly population is growing at an astounding rate as baby-boomers are now entering this age group. Also, recovery following fall-related injuries decreases with increased age. These confounding factors currently make falls a very important area of research. Of the injuries typically seen in falls among the elderly, head injuries are one of the most debilitating. Death due to head trauma among the elderly is gaining national attention; head trauma is now considered the number one cause of death among elders who fall1. Among other technologies, medical helmets are often employed to protect against such injuries, but patient compliance with these helmets remains an issue. Current helmets use foams and cotton as padding, contributing to clumsy designs. Dilatent and honeycomb materials may be the future of this industry as their low weight and high efficacy per thickness make them ideal materials for thinner, lighter, less cumbersome head protection devices. This study outlines various modes of head injury and then highlights several head protection measures. The newer materials are tested using various methods to determine the most promising candidates for prototype designs. Next, three prototypes are assembled from the newer materials and compared directly based on the protection measures established. Finally, the top-performing prototype is compared against two existing medical helmets in a similar fashion. The results show that the best prototype significantly outperforms one of the existing medical helmets, and shows slight improvement over the other. These results establish the promise of these newer materials in the application of head protection devices.

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