RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, NON-P.H.S.
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Injury tolerance of the wrist and distal forearm to impact loading onto outstretched hands.

BACKGROUND: The wrist/forearm complex is one of the most commonly fractured body regions, yet the impact tolerance of the wrist is poorly understood. This study sought to quantify the injury tolerance of the adult male forearm-wrist complex under loading simulating axial impact to an outstretched hand.

METHODS: Fifteen isolated cadaveric forearm/wrist specimens were tested. Loading was applied via an instrumented drop tower device designed to impact the palmar surface of the hand with the wrist extended to approximately 90 degrees. Impact severity was modulated by adjusting the boundary condition of the elbow. Elbow reaction force and deformation of the specimen (deflection of the palmar surface of the hand toward the elbow) were measured. Bone-implanted strain gauges were used to detect the time of fracture. Injury risk functions were developed using parametric survival analysis with a cumulative Weibull distribution.

RESULTS: Of 14 specimens, 10 exhibited a fracture to the wrist or forearm after test (one specimen was excluded from the analysis). Injury severities varied from nondisplaced fractures of the radius to severely displaced fractures and/or fracture-dislocations of the carpal bones. Of the potential predictors studied, the specimen deflection expressed as a percentage of the initial specimen length produced the injury risk model of best fit (50% risk of fracture at 1.69% deflection; 95% confidence interval, 1.38-2.07% deflection). The value of the elbow reaction force corresponding to a 50% risk of injury was 4.34 kN (3.80-4.97 kN).

CONCLUSION: These results provide information for the prediction of wrist and forearm injury in biomechanical models simulating impacts in the field and provide tolerance information for the development of injury mitigation countermeasures.

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