The Surprising Risk on the Tennis Court: Brain Injury

A brand new research reveals concussions from tennis balls can happen at high speeds, particularly with aspect head impacts, utilizing superior modeling methods validated by prior mind harm analysis.

Playing soccer and soccer is widely known for its potential to result in concussions and different head accidents. However, a query arises relating to tennis: At what pace would a tennis ball must journey to probably trigger a traumatic mind harm?

Researchers from

, a nationally ranked personal college in Dallas, discovered that tennis ball head accidents are doable, however uncommon. Their detailed computational research – using the similar approach extensively used to foretell what head accidents may happen in a automotive accident – has been revealed in the ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics.

Xin-Lin Gao, a mechanical engineering professor at SMU, and Yongqiang Li, a former SMU PhD pupil who labored with Gao, used pc modeling of the human type and a tennis ball to find out what would occur to a person’s head if it was hit by a tennis ball at totally different speeds, places and angles.

They discovered:

  • Mild traumatic mind accidents, or concussions, are uncommon, however can occur when the velocity of the tennis ball is larger than 40 meters per second. To put that in perspective, that’s sooner than a cheetah can run.
  • A ball hanging the aspect of the head was almost certainly to trigger a head harm, in comparison with being struck in the brow or the high of the head.
  • Head accidents had been additionally extra widespread when the ball hit somebody at a 90-degree angle, versus a 30- or 60-degree angle.
  • But spinning of the ball was not discovered to have any important impression on inflicting a head harm.

“Understanding and protecting against head injuries induced by tennis ball impacts is very important, given that tennis is a worldwide sport with tens of millions of participants every year,” Gao mentioned.

Gao and Li, who’s now an affiliate professor at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, had been particularly centered on figuring out if a tennis ball may trigger a head harm that was extreme sufficient to be labeled as a traumatic mind harm — when a forceful bump, blow or jolt to the head or body causes a disruption to the regular perform of the mind.

Mapping the Impact Tennis Graphic

Mapping the impression: A computational research exhibits the results of being struck by a tennis ball at three totally different places — frontal (left), lateral (center) and crown (proper). Credit: SMU

Concussions are labeled as “mild” traumatic mind accidents as a result of they aren’t life-threatening. But they will trigger lasting issues for weeks or months, comparable to complications, dizziness, and problem with focus.

More analysis is required for women and kids, although lead researcher Gao mentioned the findings would probably be related for each teams.

How the research was finished

For this research, the researchers used two so-called finite factor (FE) fashions: one in all a tennis ball and one in all a person’s head.

This head mannequin was offered by the Global Human Body Models Consortium, which makes sensible 3D fashions of males, women, and kids that can be utilized for crash simulations. Researchers frequently use these (FE) fashions of the head to research potential mind accidents to go impacts.

Gao and Li created a computer-generated tennis ball based mostly on experiments with actual ones.

A easy method to perceive finite factor modeling is to have a look at it as separating a big mathematical downside right into a collection of smaller ones, or finite components. This makes the total downside simpler to research.

Widely in style with engineers, finite factor modeling can, as an example, be utilized by automaking producers to evaluate the potential for human accidents from a crash with one in all their autos.

The SMU research used FE fashions to foretell how the mind would behave when subjected to exterior forces. The researchers did this by giving a pc system known as LS-DYNA a number of mathematical algorithms that represented traits of the ball or the man’s head. For instance, an algorithm made for testing rubber elasticity – often known as the Ogden hyperelastic mannequin – was used to symbolize the habits of mind tissues.

Based on a majority of these equations, LS-DYNA created 3D simulations of what would occur in actual life.

The measurements taken from these simulations are what allowed the researchers to find out if the drive of a tennis ball – going at totally different speeds or hitting a special a part of the head – was sufficient to trigger a person’s mind tissue to bang in opposition to his cranium, resulting in a concussion or worse.

To make sure that their findings had been correct, Gao and Li validated them with earlier TBI analysis, like experiments on human cadavers and observations of individuals with recognized concussions.

Gao and his analysis staff have additionally revealed research on head accidents induced by golf ball strikes and ballistic impacts.

Reference: “Head Injuries Induced by Tennis Ball Impacts: A Computational Study” by Yongqiang Li and Xin-Lin Gao, 3 November 2023, Journal of Applied Mechanics.
DOI: 10.1115/1.4063814

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