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Quantitative Assessment of Fracture Characteristics in Blunt Force Skeletal Trauma for Forensic Interpretations

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $818,054)

Interpretations of skeletal trauma are one of the most important aspects of forensic anthropological analysis and have the greatest impact on the criminal justice system. Specifically, blunt-force trauma is one of the more difficult areas of skeletal trauma to interpret due to varied loading conditions and lack of associated baseline fracture characteristic data. Therefore, it is imperative to critically examine our current understanding of blunt-force skeletal trauma to either further substantiate or revise traditional assumptions and approaches to ensure scientific rigor within forensic anthropology. The proposed research will impact the criminal justice system by providing forensic anthropological researchers and practitioners with empirical data that incorporate the role of intrinsic and extrinsic variables to support valid fracture interpretations in the medico-legal community. The objective is to conduct experimental skeletal trauma research on a large sample of human specimens utilizing a multiscale approach to establish relationships between fracture characteristics and tissue quality and distribution, loading rates and failure mechanisms, as well as to disseminate these data to researchers, practitioners, and the medicolegal community. Two specific aims are addressed within this research; 1) Identify the effects of tissue volume and quality on fracture characteristics in human bone to increase knowledge of the role intrinsic human variability plays in determining trauma outcomes, and 2) Quantify distinct relationships between loading rate and fracture characteristics in human bone to increase knowledge regarding the effect of external factors on trauma outcomes to improve traumatic event reconstruction and interpretation.  Within this study, human legs and isolated tibiae will be impacted in a lateral-medial direction at distinct loading rates (2 m/s and 6 m/s) to examine the contributions of both intrinsic and extrinsic variables to fracture outcomes. This research builds upon previous NIJ-funded research (NIJ 2019-DX-BX-0040) and is the next critical step in quantitatively linking human variation with fracture characteristics for forensic interpretations by investigating the interaction of these characteristics and loading conditions. Advancements in skeletal trauma analyses and interpretation must originate from experimental research on large samples that reflect the variation observed in the human population. A deeper investigation into the interaction of multiscale variables, loading mechanisms, and fracture characteristics is necessary to facilitate accurate traumatic event reconstruction and interpretations, which have direct implications in the criminal justice system. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 26, 2023