Under fast dynamic loading conditions (e.g. high-energy impact), the load rate dependency of the intervertebral disc (IVD) material properties may play a crucial role in the biomechanics of spinal trauma. However, most finite element models (FEM) of dynamic spinal trauma uses material properties derived from quasi-static experiments, thus neglecting this load rate dependency. The aim of this study was to identify hyperelastic material properties that ensure a more biofidelic simulation of the IVD under a fast dynamic compressive load. A hyperelastic material law based on a first-order Mooney-Rivlin formulation was implemented in a detailed FEM of a L2-L3 functional spinal unit (FSU) to represent the mechanical behavior of the IVD. Bony structures were modeled using an elasto-plastic Johnson-Cook material law that simulates bone fracture while ligaments were governed by a viscoelastic material law. To mimic experimental studies performed in fast dynamic compression, a compressive loading velocity of 1 m/s was applied to the superior half of L2, while the inferior half of L3 was fixed. An exploratory technique was used to simulate dynamic compression of the FSU using 34 sets of hyperelastic material constants randomly selected using an optimal Latin hypercube algorithm and a set of material constants derived from quasi-static experiments. Selection or rejection of the sets of material constants was based on compressive stiffness and failure parameters criteria measured experimentally. The two simulations performed with calibrated hyperelastic constants resulted in nonlinear load-displacement curves with compressive stiffness (7335 and 7079 N/mm), load (12,488 and 12,473 N), displacement (1.95 and 2.09 mm) and energy at failure (13.5 and 14.7 J) in agreement with experimental results (6551 ± 2017 N/mm, 12,411 ± 829 N, 2.1 ± 0.2 mm and 13.0 ± 1.5 J respectively). The fracture pattern and location also agreed with experimental results. The simulation performed with constants derived from quasi-static experiments showed a failure energy (13.2 J) and a fracture pattern and location in agreement with experimental results, but a compressive stiffness (1580 N/mm), a failure load (5976 N) and a displacement to failure (4.8 mm) outside the experimental corridors. The proposed method offers an innovative way to calibrate the hyperelastic material properties of the IVD and to offer a more realistic simulation of the FSU in fast dynamic compression.

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