The Science of Injury | Carolyn Sparrey |

The Science of Injury | Carolyn Sparrey |


I am studying human injury and how people get hurt from an engineering perspective, so putting engineering tools and technologies to the study of the human body. We’ve been doing a whole series of studies working on understanding wheelchair falls. So this is looking at the mechanics of how a wheelchair tips and what the resultant is on the rider. Eighty-seven per cent of wheelchair users have reported having a fall. In a severe injury, with the types of forces we were looking at, a skull fracture could be possible. If a skull fracture doesn’t happen, if we’re not at that level of intensity, then you’re looking at the brain moving within the skull, and that’s where you’re getting your concussion. It was a two-part experiment. The first part was actually physical experiments, where we took a power wheelchair, we put a crash test dummy in it, constructed a whole environment, so that it’s like driving off a curb. We used optical tracking so that allowed us to track exactly where the wheelchair was in time. As it tipped over we could track where it was and then we use that as input into computational models. We can use the computational side to really get into the nitty-gritty of the details. So, if you change the angle by a couple of degrees how much does that change your outcome and so we did a systematic and quantitative study of that, looking at effects of angle effects of speed, effects of curb height on the falls. A lot of it is around the technology development but there’s also a component that sometimes gets overlooked, where we develop the technologies but even just understanding how falls are occurring and looking at the mechanics of the fall, looking at the parameters that most affect the falls, we can then influence behaviour. Fall prevention is one but another critical thing is looking at how do you optimize the use of a chair, so they use their chair more effectively, they’re more mobile, they’re more active, now they’re their overall quality of life and overall health is better

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