TIME VARYING GENDER AND PASSIVE TISSUE RESPONSES TO PROLONGED DRIVING
De Carvalho, Diana Elisa
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Background: Prolonged sitting in an automobile seat may alter the passive tissue stiffness of the lumbar spine differentially in males and females. Gender specific ergonomic interventions may be indicated for the automobile seat design. Purpose: To compare time-varying passive lumbar spine stiffness in response to a two hour simulated driving trial with time-varying lumbar spine and pelvic postures during sitting in an automobile seat. A secondary purpose was to investigate gender differences in lumbar spine stiffness, seat/occupant pressure profile, discomfort rating and posture. Methods: Twenty (10 males, 10 females) subjects with no recent history of back pain were recruited from a university population. Participants completed a simulated driving task for two hours. Passive lumbar range of motion was measured on a customized frictionless jig before, halfway through and at the end of the two-hour driving trial. Changes in the passive moment-angle curves were quantified using the transition zone slopes, breakpoints and maximum lumbar flexion angles. Lumbar spine and pelvic postures were monitored continuously during the simulated driving trial with average and maximum lumbar flexion angles as well as pelvic tilt angles being calculated. Results: Both men and women initially demonstrated an increase in transitional zone stiffness after 1 hour of sitting. After 2 hours of sitting, transitional zone stiffness was found to increase in males and decrease in females. During sitting, women were found to sit with significantly greater lumbar flexion than males and to significantly change the amount of lumbar flexion over the 2 hour period of simulated driving. Conclusions: Postural differences during simulated driving were demonstrated between genders in this study. In order to prevent injury to the passive elements of the spine during prolonged driving, gender specific ergonomic interventions, such as improved lumbar support, are indicated for the automobile seat.