When a person’s head strikes, or is struck by, another object, it accelerates. As it begins to decelerate, the brain slams into the skull, then bounces off and oscillates until the impact energy dissipates. The resulting shear and compressive strains can lead to brain damage. But in battlefield explosions, the acoustic waves alone can cause soldiers traumatic brain injuries. To better understand that process, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s William Moss and Michael King and the University of Rochester’s Eric Blackman compared numerical simulations of a head colliding with a wall to one being struck by an explosion’s blast waves. Despite accelerating the head at less than half the rate of the wall collision, the simulated blast produced on the brain surprisingly comparable pressure spikes—ranging up to 3 bars—and even larger pressure gradients. Apparently, those mechanical loads are delivered by the skull, which ripples under the pressure of blast waves—the rippling...
Jermey N. A. Matthews; Skulls flex, damage brain, under battlefield explosions. Physics Today 1 October 2009; 62 (10): 20. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4796986
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