In general the passive safety capability is much higher in newer cars due to the stiff compartment preventing intrusions in severe collisions. However, the deceleration pulse becomes higher due to the stiff structure which leads to a change of injury patterns. Nevertheless, in frontal impacts without intrusions into the passenger compartment lumbar and thoracic spine injuries, covering burst, compression or dislocation fractures as well as soft tissue injuries, were found.
In order to analyse possible injury mechanisms for thoracic and lumbar spine injuries, data from the German In-Depth Accident Study (GIDAS) were used in this study. A two step approach of statistical and case-by-case analysis was applied for this investigation.
Thoracic and lumbar spine injuries such as burst, compression or dislocation fractures as well as soft tissue injuries were found to occur in frontal impacts even without intrusion to the passenger compartment.
In total 4,289 cases were selected including 8,844 vehicles, 5,765 injured persons and 9,468 coded injuries. If a MAIS 2+ injury occurs, then in 15 % of the cases a thoracic and/or lumbar spine injury is included. Considering AIS 2+ thoracic and lumbar spine, then most injuries were fractures and occurred in the lumbar spine area.
From the case by case analyses it can be concluded that lumbar spine fractures occur in accidents without the engagement of longitudinals, lateral loading to the occupant and/or very severe accidents with MAIS being much higher than the spine AIS.

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