Ballistic impact to the forehead, zygoma, and mandible: comparison of human and frangible dummy face biomechanics

David C Viano, Cynthia Bir, Tim Walilko, Don Sherman
Journal of Trauma 2004, 56 (6): 1305-11

BACKGROUND: Currently, there is a greater use of nonlethal force in law enforcement and military operations. Because facial injuries have been observed, there is a need to understand the human response to ballistic impacts involving various regions of the face. This study aimed to establish blunt ballistic response corridors for high-speed, low-mass facial impacts to the forehead, zygoma, and mandible, and to determine how these responses compare with those of the frangible Hybrid III headform. Correlation of the human and dummy responses allows injury risk assessment for munitions used in the field.

METHODS: Facial impacts to the forehead, zygoma, and mandible of six cadavers at 42 +/- 10 m/sec were conducted using a 25- to 35-g projectile 37 mm in diameter that was instrumented with an accelerometer to determine impact force. High-speed video analysis determined penetration of the projectile, and autopsy determined the facial fractures. Force and deflection were normalized for the 50% tile response, and corridors were determined for blunt ballistic impacts. Similar tests were conducted on the frangible face of the Hybrid III dummy.

RESULTS: Peak normalized force of 3.5 +/- 0.9 kN on the forehead and 3.0 +/- 1.0 kN on the mandible did not result in fractures, whereas an impact force of 2.3 +/- 0.5 kN on the zygoma caused anterior maxilla fractures. The frangible Hybrid III face developed similar force levels, but with less penetration of the projectile. Its stiffness was 43% greater than that of the cadaver.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher impact force can be tolerated on the forehead and mandible than on the zygoma. Normalized force-deflection and force-time corridors were established for the human response. The frangible Hybrid III face is an effective surrogate for assessing ballistic injury risks, but greater compliance would make it more biofidelic. Initial human tolerance levels of 6.0 kN for the forehead, 1.6 kN for the zygoma, and 1.9 kN for the mandible have been established for ballistic impacts to the face.

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