New headrest that could prevent whiplash injuries

by allan46 on March 22, 2011

Whiplash injuries among passengers and drivers who have been shunted from behind are a major cause of long-term health issues and, in some extreme cases, death. Faux whiplash claims from such incidents have also hit the insurance sector since the recession, claiming more than £1.9 billion and adds around £49 on every motorist’s insurance cover. Therefore, innocent drivers and insurers alike will be pleased to hear that a report from the International Journal of Vehicle Systems Modelling and Testing, has described a new type of vehicle headrest that could improve safety, thus reducing whiplash injury risks. The new headrest being developed by Italian engineers can be easily positioned so that it is always at the optimum passenger head distance to avoid whiplash injuries during a rear vehicle collision. However, the headrest almost instantaneously locks in position during a crash and provides the best protection for driver and passengers. Putting the brakes on whiplash Many drivers and passengers receive whiplash injury because they are simply unaware of the personal harm or damage whiplash injury can do, therefore, they fail to adjust their headrest. In addition to this, headrests are difficult to adjust and are pressed downwards by the head in a crash and so do nothing to protect someone from personal injury. The designers, Massimiliano Gobbi, Federico Giorgetta, and Giampiero Mastinu of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at the Technical University in Milan, worked with Renato Ravicino of Italian headrest manufacturer Gestind MB S.p.A., based in Bruzolo, to develop the new system. Gobbi and colleagues commented on the desire to make such a device: “Whiplash injuries constitute a growing health problem and economic burden in westernised and motorised nations. “Without significant efforts in crash prevention and improvements in vehicle safety design, especially with more effective seat back and head restraint systems, the ever increasing traffic density will show a rise in this negative trend.” The team explained that whiplash is an issue of rapid “acceleration-deceleration” with energy transferred to the neck in rear-end or side-impact collisions. A personal injury like whiplash can create bone and soft-tissue wounds that may or may not be treated effectively. Such injuries are preventable with better headrest design, the team believes. They have developed full-scale tests and a scaled test-rig for research and development of the new headrest prototype. The new headrest has an automatic locking system that is activated only in a collision, locking the headrest within milliseconds. At other times, the headrest is unrestrained and can be adjusted without difficult movement involving the impression of various locking buttons. Dr. Jean Shapiro, a chiropractor, welcomed the new device and stated that such a headrest could reduce whiplash claims by 40%. He commented: “Your headrest is not for comfort — it’s not to lounge out on. It’s a safety device. What many people don’t realise is that whiplash is a serious issue.” He added that the amount of bent metal and broken glass in a crash doesn’t necessarily correlate with the seriousness of injuries, especially to the neck. “A low-speed impact can have a very high pain or injury index. What happens is, if the crash isn’t large enough to deform the vehicle, all that kinetic energy from the accident is passed on to the occupants,” he said.

This articles looks at Whiplash injuries and whiplash claims. It discusses how Italian designers have created a new head rest device which could help decrease claims. Such as invention has been welcomed by doctors and insurers.

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