Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Albert King

Second Advisor

David Viano


Linear and angular velocity and acceleration of the head are typically correlated to concussion. Despite improvements in helmet performance to reduce accelerations, a corresponding reduction in the incidence of concussion has not occurred (National Football League [NFL] 1996 – present).

There is compelling research that forces on and deformation to the brain stem are related to concussion. The brain stem is the center of control for respiration, blood pressure and heart rate and is the root of most cranial nerves. Injury to the brain stem is consistent with most symptoms of concussion reported in the National Football League and the National Hockey League, such as headaches, neck pain, dizziness, and blurred vision. In the Hybrid III anthropomorphic test device (ATD), the upper neck load cell is in close proximity to the human brain stem.

This study found that the additional mass of a football helmet onto the Hybrid III headform increases the upper neck forces and moments in response to helmet-to-helmet impact and helmet-to-chest impacts. A new laboratory impactor device was constructed to simulate collisions using two moving Hybrid III ATDs. The impactor was used to recreate on-field collisions (n=20) in American football while measuring head, neck and upper torso kinematics. A strong correlation between upper neck forces, upper neck power and the estimated strains and strain rates along the axis of the upper cervical spinal cord and brain stem and concussion was found. These biomechanical responses should be added to head kinematic responses for a more comprehensive evaluation of concussion.