Occupational Health & Safety

Study: Women's Skulls Thicker, Men's Wider; Might Affect Protection Design

According to a new imaging study of 3,000 people using the latest in imaging analysis techniques, women's skulls are thicker than men's, and both shrink slowly in adulthood. The average skull thickness for men is 6.5 millimeters, and the average for women is 7.1 mm. The average front-to-back measurement is 176 mm for men and 171 mm for women, and the average width is 145 mm for men and 140 mm for women. These detailed results could help in the design of more effective devices for protecting the head in vehicle collisions and other accidents, the researchers say.

"Skull thickness differences between genders are confirmed in our study," says Jesse Ruan of the Ford Motor Company, who, along with colleagues at Tianjin University of Science and Technology, published their research in the International Journal of Vehicle Safety. "The next step will be to find out how these differences translate into head impact response of male and female, and then we can design the countermeasure for head protection."

Skull thickness, as one might expect, improves the outcome for anyone suffering a head injury, but studies have also demonstrated that skull shape can also have an effect. However, the detailed relationship between skull thickness and shape and how well a person tolerates a head injury have not been settled, with most studies simply extrapolating from smaller to larger skull and thickness to predict the likely effects of an impact. The current research, which involved a detailed statistical analysis of the various measurements for all 3,000 people scanned, shows that the distribution of skull size, shape, and thickness do not follow a so-called "normal" distribution pattern and so such extrapolations may be invalid. "Reliable biomechanical geometric data of the human skull can help us to better understand the problem of head injury during an impact," the researchers say, "and help in the design of better head protective devices."

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