Scientists Tackle the "Faceplanting" Phenomenon

Admit it — you've watched those videos where people crash into something and then faceplant into the ground. It turns out that scientists have been watching them too. Here's what they've discovered.

Over at BoingBoing, Maggie Koerth-Baker has a hilariously awesome essay about the history of faceplant studies, and the first scientific paper to be published about what happens to a planted face, and why. There's a lot of great stuff in the article about what it means to analyze a video for evidence — yes, it's iffy but also useful — and about how doctors have tried to devise better headgear to prevent faceplant-related injuries.


But, as Koerth-Baker notes, it's really all about mechanics:

Ultimately, this all boils down to a simple equation: Force = mass x acceleration. How heavy an object is, times how fast that object changes speed becomes the force acting on the object. It's the job of injury biomechanics researchers to figure out what masses and what kinds of impacts lead to the kind of forces that cause serious injuries. It's also their job to figure out what force causes what kinds of injuries. Then, they put it all together and figure out how to reduce the force of impact to the point that it doesn't cause a certain injury. That's what an airbag is all about — if you lengthen the amount of time it takes a human body to come to a stop in a car accident, then you reduce the force acting on them, and you reduce and change the injuries they suffer. A better football helmet can do that same job. One of the big successes of the last decade in injury biomechanics is a helmet rating system, based on research that showed us the level of acceleration necessary to cause a concussion.


Check out the whole article at BoingBoing!

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If anybody can actually make it to the end of this video without looking away, I'd wager they also possess an immunity to the contagious effect of yawns.

I've also heard about some experimental research into reducing face injuries, the science gets pretty complex. They refer to an advanced technique where one uses a combination of limbs placed in a mathematically calculated position, to allow for the absorption of kinetic energy with a body part possessing a greater structural integrity. It was all beyond me so I wrote a letter to the scientist seeking an explanation, in layman's terms, of how to apply his method. He replied. "Don't land on your face."