The purposes of this study were to measure the relative linear and angular displacements of each pair of adjacent cervical vertebrae and to compute changes in distance between two adjacent facet joint landmarks during low posterior- anterior (+Gx) acceleration without significant hyperextension of the head. A total of twenty-six low speed rear-end impacts were conducted using six postmortem human specimens. Each cadaver was instrumented with two to three neck targets embedded in each cervical vertebra and nine accelerometers on the head. Sequential x-ray images were collected and analyzed. Two seatback orientations were studied.
In the global coordinate system, the head, the cervical vertebrae, and the first or second thoracic vertebra (T1 or T2) were in extension during rear-end impacts. The head showed less extension in comparison with the cervical spine. Relative motion for each cervical motion segment went from flexion at the upper cervical levels to extension at the lower cervical levels, with a transition region at the mid-cervical levels. This rotational pattern formed an "S" shape in the cervical spine during the initial phase of low-speed rear impacts.
A pair of facet joint landmarks on each cervical motion segment was used to measure the distance across the joint space. Uni-axial facet capsular strains were calculated by dividing changes in this distance over the original distance in seven tests using three specimens. In 20-degree seatback tests, the average strain was 32±11% for the C2/C3 facet joint (17%-43% range), and 59±26% for the C3/C4 facet joint (41%-97% range). The C4/C5 and C5/C6 facet joints exhibited peak tensile or compressive strains in different specimens. In 0- degree seatback tests, the average strain was 28±11% for the C2/C3 facet joint (21%-41% range), 30±9% for the C3/C4 facet joint (21%-39% range), 22±4% for the C4/C5 facet joint (19%-25% range), and 60±13% for the C5/C6 facet joint (51%-69% range).
In 20-degree seatback tests, there was less initial cervical lordosis, more upward ramping of the thoracic spine, and more relative rotation of each cervical motion segment in comparison with the 0-degree seatback tests. Relative to T1, the head went from flexion to extension for 20-degree seatback tests while stayed in extension for 0-degree seatback tests.