The WRAIR projectile concussive impact model of mild traumatic brain injury: Re-design, testing and preclinical validation

Lai Yee Leung*, Zachary Larimore, Larry Holmes, Casandra Cartagena, Andrea Mountney, Ying Deng-Bryant, Kara Schmid, Deborah Shear, Frank Tortella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The WRAIR projectile concussive impact (PCI) model was developed for preclinical study of concussion. It represents a truly non-invasive closed-head injury caused by a blunt impact. The original design, however, has several drawbacks that limit the manipulation of injury parameters. The present study describes engineering advancements made to the PCI injury model including helmet material testing, projectile impact energy/head kinematics and impact location. Material testing indicated that among the tested materials, 'fiber-glass/carbon' had the lowest elastic modulus and yield stress for providing an relative high percentage of load transfer from the projectile impact, resulting in significant hippocampal astrocyte activation. Impact energy testing of small projectiles, ranging in shape and size, showed the steel sphere produced the highest impact energy and the most consistent impact characteristics. Additional tests confirmed the steel sphere produced linear and rotational motions on the rat's head while remaining within a range that meets the criteria for mTBI. Finally, impact location testing results showed that PCI targeted at the temporoparietal surface of the rat head produced the most prominent gait abnormalities. Using the parameters defined above, pilot studies were conducted to provide initial validation of the PCI model demonstrating quantifiable and significant increases in righting reflex recovery time, axonal damage and astrocyte activation following single and multiple concussions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1618-1630
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Concussion
  • Gait
  • Head kinematics
  • Helmet
  • Impact energy
  • Mild TBI
  • Projectile


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