Epidemiological data and clinical indicia reveal devastating consequences associated with pediatric neck injuries. Unfortunately, neither injury prevention nor clinical management strategies will be able to effectively reduce these injuries or their effects on children, without an understanding of the cervical spine developmental biomechanics. Thus, we investigated the relationship between spinal development and the functional (stiffness) and failure biomechanical characteristics of the cervical spine in a baboon model. A correlation study design was used to define the relationships between spinal tissue maturation and spinal biomechanics in both tension and compression. Eighteen baboon cervical spine specimens distributed across the developmental spectrum (1–26 human equivalent years) were dissected into osteoligamentous functional spinal units. Using a servo-hydraulic MTS, these specimens (Oc–C2, C3–C4, C5–C6, C7–T1) were non-destructively tested in tension and compression and then displaced to failure in tension while measuring the six-axes of loads and displacements. The functions describing the developmental biomechanical response of the cervical spine for stiffness and normalized stiffness exhibited a significant direct relationship in both tension and compression loading. Similarly, the tensile failure load and normalized failure load demonstrated significant maturational increases. Further, differences in biomechanical response were observed between the spinal levels examined and all levels exhibited clinically relevant failure patterns. These data support our understanding of the child cervical spine from a developmental biomechanics perspective and facilitate the development of injury prevention or management schema for the mitigation of child spine injuries and their deleterious effects.
Keywords: Biomechanics; Cervical spine; Development; Maturation; Injury tolerance