An Analysis of Recent Accidents Involving Upper Extremity Fractures Associated with Airbag Deployment

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

SAE International

Conference Name

SAE 2002 World Congress & Exhibition


Prior experimental and field studies have demonstrated an increased risk of upper extremity fracture due the deployment of frontal airbags. The experimental studies provide valuable insight as to likely injury mechanisms; namely, increasing proximity increases the risk of forearm fracture. Still, field data is needed to validate these experimental findings. The available field data has largely been derived from direct case study analysis or a review of government accident statistics. In both cases, the datasets were comprised solely of pre-1995 era vehicles. Such data represents early generation airbag designs and there has been little additional study in this area. In addition, there has been an absence of fracture pattern analyses as a function of airbag deployment and non-deployment. Such an analysis would help elucidate the role of the deploying airbag on upper extremity fracture in the current fleet. In the current study we analyzed the NASS database and cases admitted to our trauma service. Our analysis shows that the forearm was fractured most frequently and that airbag deployment is associated with a 2 to 3 times increase in the proportion of forearm fractures versus no bag deployment. Further, it was found that females were statistically more at risk to suffer a forearm fracture even after pair matching for airbag deployment exposure and occupant sex. The current study shows that airbag deployment increases the risk of forearm fracture as a proportion of all upper extremity fractures and that females are at an increased risk of such injury.


DOI: 10.4271/2002-01-0022

ISSN: 0148-7191

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2002 Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc