Thoracic and lumbar spine responses in high-speed rear sled tests

<p><b>Objective</b>: This study analyzed thoracic and lumbar spine responses with in-position and out-of-position (OOP) seated dummies in 40.2 km/h (25 mph) rear sled tests with conventional and all-belts-to-seat (ABTS) seats. Occupant kinematics and spinal responses were determined with modern (≥2000 MY), older (<2000 MY), and ABTS seats.</p> <p><b>Methods</b>: The seats were fixed in a sled buck subjected to a 40.2 km/h (25 mph) rear sled test. The pulse was a 15 <i>g</i> double-peak acceleration with 150 ms duration. The 50th percentile Hybrid III was lap–shoulder belted in the FMVSS 208 design position or OOP, including leaning forward and leaning inboard and forward. There were 26 in-position tests with 11 <2000 MY, 8 ≥2000 MY, and 7 ABTS and 14 OOP tests with 6 conventional and 8 ABTS seats. The dummy was fully instrumented. This study addressed the thoracic and lumbar spine responses. Injury assessment reference values are not approved for the thoracic and lumbar spine. Conservative thresholds exist. The peak responses were normalized by a threshold to compare responses. High-speed video documented occupant kinematics.</p> <p><b>Results</b>: The extension moments were higher in the thoracic than lumbar spine in the in-position tests. For <2000 MY seats, the thoracic extension moment was 76.8 ± 14.6% of threshold and the lumbar extension moment was 50.5 ± 17.9%. For the ≥2000 MY seats, the thoracic extension moment was 54.2 ± 26.6% of threshold and the lumbar extension moment was 49.8 ± 27.7%. ABTS seats provided similar thoracic and lumbar responses. Modern seat designs lowered thoracic and lumbar responses. For example, the 1996 Taurus had −1,696 N anterior lumbar shear force and −205.2 Nm extension moment. There was −1,184 N lumbar compression force and 1,512 N tension. In contrast, the 2015 F-150 had −500 N shear force and −49.7 Nm extension moment. There was −839 N lumbar compression force and 535 N tension. On average, the 2015 F-150 had 40% lower lumbar spine responses than the 1996 Taurus. The OOP tests had similar peak lumbar responses; however, they occurred later due to the forward lean of the dummy.</p> <p><b>Conclusions</b>: The design and performance of seats have significantly changed over the past 20 years. Modern seats use a perimeter frame allowing the occupant to pocket into the seatback. Higher and more forward head restraints allow a stronger frame because the head, neck, and torso are more uniformly supported with the seat more upright in severe rear impacts. The overall effect has been a reduction in thoracic and lumbar loads and risks for injury.</p>