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Mechanical analysis of survival in falls from heights of fifty to one hundred and fifty feet
  1. Hugh De Haven1
  1. 1Research Associate, Department of Physiology, Cornell University, Medical College, New York

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    During the interval of velocity change in aircraft and automobile accidents many typical crash injuries are caused by structures and objects which can be altered in placement or design so as to modify the large number of severe and constantly recurring patterns of injury in these accidents. In order conscientiously to approach some of the engineering problems encountered in reduction of the potential injury hazards of windshield structures, seats, instrument panels, safety belts, etc, it was necessary to have some understanding of the limits of mechanical strength of the human body.

    The objective in studying the physiologic results of rapid deceleration in the following instances of extraordinary survival—after free fall and impact with relatively solid structures—was to establish a working knowledge of the force and tolerance limits of the body. On the basis of these data certain engineering improvements can be considered for aircraft and automotive design.

    Loss of pilots through injury due to the increased landing speeds of military planes has become more and more frequent; this loss and the ever present toll by accident in the automotive field are matters of grave national concern. Injuries in these fields are mechanical results stemming from localized pressures induced by force and applied to the body through the medium of structure. It is an axiom in the mechanical arts that modification of cause will change results, but the nature and the degree of structural alteration to modify injury to human beings effectively depend on the reactions of the body to abrupt pressure and its distribution. The strength of human anatomic structure and its tolerance of pressure increase are centrally important elements in any proposed increase of safety factors through engineering effort.

    Obviously, if the body could tolerate pressure within only narrow limits, few improvements would be worth consideration, since the force …

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