To date, no in vitro studies have been conducted to explore lumbar soft tissue injury potential and altered mechanical properties from exposure to impact forces. After a motor vehicle collision (MVC), the cause of reported acute onset low back pain is difficult to associate with potential soft tissue strain injury sites including the facet joint and innervated facet joint capsule ligament (FJC). Thus, the purpose of this investigation was to quantify intervertebral anterior-posterior (AP) translation and facet joint capsule strain under varying postures and impact severities. Seventy-two porcine spinal units were exposed to three levels of impact severity (4 g, 8 g, 11 g), and posture (Neutral, Flexion, Extension). Impacts were applied using a custom-built impact track that replicated parameters experienced in low to moderate speed rear-end MVCs. Flexion-extension and anterior-posterior shear neutral zone testing were completed prior to impact. AP intervertebral translation and the strain tensor of the facet capsule ligament were measured during impacts. A significant main effect of collision severity was observed for peak AP intervertebral translation (4 g-2.8 ±0.53 mm; 8 g-6.4 ±2.9 mm; 11 g-8.3 ±0.45 mm) and peak FJC shear strain (2.37% strain change from 4 g to 11 g impact severity). Despite observed main effects of impact severity, no influence of posture was observed. This lack of influence of posture and small FJC strain magnitudes suggest that the FJC does not appear to undergo injurious or permanent mechanical changes in response to low-to-moderate MVC impact scenarios.
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