Musculoskeletal modelling of the human cervical spine for the investigation of injury mechanisms during axial impacts

Pavlos Silvestros, Ezio Preatoni, Harinderjit Gill, Sabina Gheduzzi, Bruno Agostinho Hernandez, Timothy Holsgrove, Dario Cazzola

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11 Citations (SciVal)


Head collisions in sport can result in catastrophic injuries to the cervical spine. Musculoskeletal modelling can help analyse the relationship between motion, external forces and internal loads that lead to injury. However, impact specific musculoskeletal models are lacking as current viscoelastic values used to describe cervical spine joint dynamics have been obtained from unrepresentative quasi-static or static experiments. The aim of this study was to develop and validate a cervical spine musculoskeletal model for use in axial impacts. Cervical spine specimens (C2-C6) were tested under measured sub-catastrophic loads and the resulting 3D motion of the vertebrae was measured. Specimen specific musculoskeletal models were then created and used to estimate the axial and shear viscoelastic (stiffness and damping) properties of the joints through an optimisation algorithm that minimised tracking errors between measured and simulated kinematics. A five-fold cross validation and a Monte Carlo sensitivity analysis were conducted to assess the performance of the newly estimated parameters. The impact-specific parameters were integrated in a population specific musculoskeletal model and used to assess cervical spine loads measured from Rugby union impacts compared to available models. Results of the optimisation showed a larger increase of axial joint stiffness compared to axial damping and shear viscoelastic parameters for all models. The sensitivity analysis revealed that lower values of axial stiffness and shear damping reduced the models performance considerably compared to other degrees of freedom. The impact-specific parameters integrated in the population specific model estimated more appropriate joint displacements for axial head impacts compared to available models and are therefore more suited for injury mechanism analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0216663
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2019


  • Computer Simulation
  • Biomechanics
  • cervical spine
  • Impact
  • rugby


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