In this study, the authors have developed a technique to replicate clinically relevant traumatic cervical spine injuries and determined the injury biomechanics. Because of the importance of compressive forces in neck injuries, this research was conducted using compression as the primary load vector. Six fresh human cadaveric head-neck complexes were prepared by fixing the distal end in methylmethacrylate. Tests were done with varying loading rates to include quasistatic and dynamic conditions. For quasistatic experiments, the proximal end was fixed to the piston of the testing device. In dynamic tests, the cranium was unconstrained, and to maintain stability, the effects of the spinal musculature were simulated by means of pulleys, deadweights, and springs in the anterior and posterior parts of the head-neck complex. Quasistatic tests conducted at a rate of 2.0 mm/sec produced cervical spine trauma at forces ranging from 1.7 to 2.3 kN, with deformations ranging from 2.2 to 3.7 cm. The specimens were deep-frozen at the level of injury, preserving the local deformation of the tissues to enable a detailed evaluation immediately after the injury. Dynamic tests conducted at velocities of 3.2 to 5.7 m/sec resulted in impact injuries at one level of the head-neck complex. The applied forces at the vertex were considerably higher than those recorded at the distal end. The failure deformations for both the quasistatic (2.2-3.7 cm) and dynamic (1.7-3.2 cm) tests, however, were found to be similar, suggesting that the human head-neck complex is a deformation-sensitive structure.
Keywords: cervical spine biomechanics, compression-flexion, dynamic injuries, head-neck complex, spinal musculature