The cervical spine serves two primary functions: (1) as a mechanical linkage that allows a large controlled range of head motions and (2) as a protective structure for the spinal cord that passes through the spinal canals of the vertebrae. Cervical injuries involving fracture or dislocation of the vertebrae often involve the spinal cord, leading to paralysis or even death. Although serious neck injuries have become relatively rare in American football since the adoption of new spearing rules and tackling procedures, the development of cervical protective equipment should further reduce both the severity and the frequency of neck injuries.
Many developers of cervical protective devices use anthropomorphic test devices, or ATDs, as physical surrogates for the athlete. Currently available ATDs are of limited biofidelity and ability to predict neck injuries under conditions involving head impact. This paper discusses the ongoing development of a new cervical test device with improved biofidelity in the frontal, lateral, and axial directions. A new transducer is proposed to measure dynamically the three dimensional curvature along the length of the neck.