Through a complete review of published research over the last 60 years, researchers aim to propel development of new head injury metrics forward.

Metrics that help engineers design safer helmets and vehicles to prevent fatalities went mostly unchanged for about 50 years. Now, researchers are looking for better metrics to help prevent brain injuries—from mild concussions to traumatic damage.

In “A Review of Head Injury Metrics Used in Automotive Safety and Sports Protective Equipment,” published in the ASME Journal of Biomedical Engineering, authors Stefan Duma and Bethany Rowson examined every major metric that has been published over the past 60 years, including some of the original work done at Wayne State University in the 1960s and 1970s that examined skull fractures and were used for early football helmet and vehicle design standards. This effort summarizes existing head injury metrics and their applications for head and brain injuries.

Duma is Harry C. Wyatt Professor of Engineering and director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) at Virginia Tech and Rowson is a former Virginia Tech research assistant professor. The team defined a metric as any variable or combination of variables that is “used to assess injury severity, while a criterion is any quantitative value that is considered a threshold for injury or is assigned a predicted risk of injury.”

The Virginia Tech team has about 30 years of history in automobile safety. About 20 years ago, they started working more in the sports and football area. Today, about 40 faculty and students at Virginia Tech work on brain-related research.