Analysis of blunt trauma injuries: Vertical deceleration versus horizontal deceleration injuries

Paula D. Tomczak, Jane E. Buikstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


There are several similarities found in blunt trauma injuries to humans sustained as a result of vertical deceleration (falling) and those sustained as a result of deceleration in a horizontal plane (automobile accidents). However, examination of the patterns of traumatic skeletal injuries can distinguish those injuries associated with falling from heights from those associated with automobile accidents. While there is considerable variation within each type of blunt trauma injury dependent on the angle at which one falls or is struck, there are several characteristic skeletal features associated which each type of trauma. In this study we review both the current literature and human skeletal remains from the University of New Mexico's Documented Collection known to have been subjected to blunt trauma. This collection is used to characterize and differentiate the pattern of skeletal injuries to various parts of the body for each type of trauma. These assessments are applied to investigate the traumatic skeletal lesions observed in a forensic case where the manner of death is unknown. Analyses suggest two possible scenarios that would explain the death of the individual investigated, with death most likely related to a vehicular-pedestrian accident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-262
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Blunt trauma
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic sciences
  • Horizontal deceleration injuries
  • Vertical deceleration injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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