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20th October 2021 Latest News Spinal Injuries

Improving spinal injury training for paramedics

Mingyue Liu and Claire Jones

Participants needed to aid design of mannequin neck

A highly innovative mannequin neck is being designed by local researchers to improve neck immobilisation training for paramedics when confronted with a serious or suspected spinal injury.

A team of mechanical engineers at the University of Adelaide is working with paramedics and spine surgeons to develop the new technology, to better replicate the natural rotation of an unconscious person’s neck and provide feedback to the user if the neck is moved in a potentially harmful way.

Thanks to a grant from The Hospital Research Foundation Group, the team led by Dr Claire Jones (pictured right), is now seeking volunteers to assist with their design and gain better data on how the human neck moves across a range of age groups.

“Current mannequins used to train people in spinal immobilisation have necks that don’t move like human necks, and they don’t provide feedback to the user on the position the head or neck is in,” Dr Jones said.

“For example, if the aim of immobilisation is to keep the head centred above the shoulders without rotating, then ideally the apparatus that you’re using for training could tell you if the head of the mannequin is being rotated.

“Our goal is to design a neck for a mannequin that has those exact features – moves like a human neck and can provide feedback to the user – to improve the training for spinal immobilisation techniques and procedures.”

Dr Jones said that in order to design the neck to meet this functionality, the team needed to understand more about the natural movement of necks at different ages.

“The main design criteria that are unknown are the stiffness and range of motion of the human neck in the different directions it moves, and how these change as you age,” she said.

“To gain this insight, we’ve created two mechanical apparatus’ that our volunteer participants will lie in so we can assess their neck motions while in a completely relaxed state, replicating someone who is unconscious. We put small electrodes on the participant’s skin above the major neck muscles so that we can assess in real time whether participants are tensing their muscles.”

Dr Jones was grateful for the grant from THRF Group to progress this project in the unique area of biomechanics – a fusion between the medical specialties of orthopaedics, spine and musculoskeletal medicine with mechanical engineering.

“Our research involves solving problems that sit at the interface of medicine and injury biomechanics, and leads to improved injury prevention, management and treatment” she said.

“Thank you so much for this support which will help us get one step closer to our goal of improving training outcomes for paramedics and other healthcare professionals, and ultimately the health of people at risk of serious spinal injuries.”

Volunteers aged 20-80 years old, who are in good health and have no neck pain, are being sought to participate in the study for one three-hour session. A $60 gift voucher will be provided for your time. See more information here.