Tom Whyte

RESEARCHER PROFILE

Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Tom is an injury biomechanics engineer with specific expertise in mechanical impact response and tolerance of the human body, the design and testing of injury protective systems and motor vehicle crash investigation.

He was awarded PhD from the University of Technology Sydney in 2016 having undertaken a detailed examination of facial impacts to motorcycle riders and full-face helmet protection. In his postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of British Columbia, he led experimental impact biomechanics studies to define tissue mechanics and tolerance of the brain and spine.

Projects Tom Whyte is currently involved with

CURRENT PROJECTS

Fitted lids for kids

Head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for children older than one year of age and one of the most common reasons for paediatric presentation to the emergency department. Pedal cyclist incidents alone are responsible for 10% of hospitalisations for head injuries among Australian children. Helmets have been proven to be effective at preventing and reducing the severity of head injuries, however head injury still occurs to approximately 20% of injured child bicyclists despite helmet wearing.

Poor helmet positioning (misuse) undermines the protective benefit and has been observed in up to 85% of child bicyclists. Misuse in children relates to poor helmet fit and comfort stemming from child helmets being designed as scaled down adult helmets and not accounting for variations in head and face shape throughout child development.

We aim to define the head, face and neck shapes of children needed for appropriate helmet shell and retention system design and define the factors for helmet misuse among child bicyclists.

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Fitted lids for kids

Keeping seniors safe on roads

People aged >65 years are up to 9 times more likely to be seriously injured in a crash than younger people. The reason most commonly cited for this is the increased frailty associated with aging leading to a reduced tolerance to crash forces. However other factors may also impact this risk including differences in size and posture affecting the interaction with vehicle safety systems.

Additionally, we recently found that approximately 25% of older occupants use a comfort accessory, such as seat belt padding, seat base cushions, seat back cushions, and back supports when travelling in cars. We are currently studying whether these accessories impact the safety of older occupants in crashes to develop guidelines for their use.

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Keeping seniors safe on roads

PIONEERS (Protective Innovations of New Equipment for Enhanced Rider Safety)

NeuRA is part of a multi-centre European collaborative project investigating and assessing ways to reduce fatalities and severities of injuries of motorcycles and powered two wheelers (PTWs).

This project aims to develop new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and On-Board Safety Systems, improve validation and assessment methods and increasing the usage rate of such devices. For more information, visit http://pioneers-project.eu/

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PIONEERS (Protective Innovations of New Equipment for Enhanced Rider Safety)

Child injury – road trauma is a leading cause of death and disabling injury for children

Our group is studying how injuries occur in children when they are involved in crashes, and how changes to the types and design of restraints used by children can reduce serious injuries and death. Key problems include whether children use restraints correctly and whether they use restraints that are appropriate for their size. Recent findings include that rates of misuse of child restraints are high, and much of this misuse is serious enough to compromise the effectiveness of the restraints in crashes. Building on our recent work that led to major changes in child restraint design and usage laws in Australia, Dr Julie Brown and I are currently studying how restraint ergonomics and comfort affect how children use restraints, and whether we can improve how restraints are labelled to help parents to use them correctly.

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Child injury – road trauma is a leading cause of death and disabling injury for children

RESEARCH TEAM

PUBLICATIONS

Technique and preliminary findings for in vivo quantification of brain motion during injurious head impacts.

Whyte T, Liu J, Chung V, McErlane SA, Abebe ZA, McInnes KA, Wellington CL, Cripton PA

A review of impact testing methods for headgear in sports: Considerations for improved prevention of head injury through research and standards.

Whyte T, Stuart C, Mallory A, Ghajari M, Plant D, Siegmund GP, Cripton PA

Assessing the performance of motorcyclists' impact protectors in simulated ATD knee and shoulder impacts.

Meredith L, Albanese B, Whyte T, Gibson T, Fitzharris M, Baldock M, Brown J

Fractures are a common injury among motorcycle riders and can have serious health implications. Impact protection (IP) has been designed to help prevent fractures, yet there are conflicting opinions as to whether this IP does in fact help prevent fractures in real-world crashes. This work aimed to (1) use simulated dummy impacts to examine whether existing types of IP could reduce the force transferred to the underlying bone to below fracture tolerance levels and (2) investigate whether current European Standard (EN 1621-1) test procedures for impact protectors designed for motorcyclists are sufficient to ensure fracture protection. Though the energy attenuation test method in the European standard may be an appropriate approach, distinct differences in injury protection performance observed between knee and shoulder IP indicate that there may be a need for different performance criteria for IP designated to protect different body regions.

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