numbers of claims made to insurance companies each year (Insurance Research Council, 1994).
Despite such obstacles, the field of injury biomechanics has made progress; for example, an advanced frontal crash test dummy has been developed that incorporates improved biofidelic features and expanded instrumentation. The new dummy potentially represents an effective tool for whole-body trauma assessment. Additionally, the clarification of design and performance specifications for child crash dummies will be useful for evaluating children's responses and injury potential in automobile crashes (NHTSA, 1998). Other advances are clearly demonstrated by the development of computerized models of injury. The revolution in computer and information technology in the past decade has led to the development of biofidelic models (i.e., realistic computer-based models of human anatomy and physiology). In many instances, anatomically accurate models that only five years ago were considered impractical are now examined routinely by biomechanics researchers. In addition, the decreasing cost of computer technology has allowed more research groups to develop and test computational models for studying injury mechanisms and tolerance.
Nevertheless, the utility of the models is dependent on the use of animals and cadavers for validation. Further, computer models are often developed in parallel with research on animals and cadavers; for example, a computer model of the neck under compressive loading is developed and validated with data from similar experiments on cadavers. Three principal benefits occur when such a parallel approach is used: (1) the computational models are more consistent, since they are validated with experimental data; (2) computational simulations, when exercised over a broad range of mechanical conditions, can highlight important new areas of investigation for the experimental models; and (3) the models are more easily extended to different segments of the human population, thereby increasing their impact. In all, the parallel approach can yield new insights, as well as new research directions, for investigators in injury prevention.
In the future, the role of modeling will continue to grow as an important tool for understanding injury causation and may also represent an effective proactive prevention tool by identifying harmful environments, harmful products, or at-risk populations before injuries occur. However, animal and cadaver research will continue to be an important component because it will be needed to establish the fidelity of computer models and to provide accurate measures of response to injury in children and small adults. Inasmuch as current support for both cadaver and animal experiments is inadequate, research support must be expanded.
The committee recommends the continued development of physical, mathematical, cellular, and biofidelic models of injury, particularly for high-risk populations (such as children and small women), while continuing to use animals and cadavers to validate biomechanical models of injury.