Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $100,000)
Skeletal trauma analysis has become the most requested topic forensic anthropologists are asked to testify about as expert witnesses in a court of law. However, trauma analysis is mostly heuristic and lacks statistical substantiation. Therefore, it cannot meet admissibility criteria set by the Daubert standards, and its interpretation is extremely limited. Furthermore, the lack of research on blunt trauma, particularly regarding the ribs, creates a gap in our knowledge. This is especially problematic considering this is the most common type of trauma and the most frequently injured anatomical region. As such, there is a discordance between the high frequency of trauma interpretation by forensic anthropologists and the lack of resources available to substantiate interpretations.
The objectives of this research are to identify injury patterns in the ribs from a large geographically diverse sample from medical examiner's offices, to develop predictive models of rib failure location and magnitude of rib failure, and to identify influential variables in the prediction of rib failure. Rib fractures will be documented, and the research findings will elucidate any large-scale trends to ultimately provide frequency statistics for fracture location and fracture types. Robust statistical analysis will be used to explore the influence of covariates (i.e., sex, age, ancestry, weight, stature, injury type, load type) on location and severity of fractures and, if possible, build predictive models. This project will highlight the distribution of rib trauma in response to specific loads and provide a better understanding of the complexities of biological variables and their impact on bone's response to trauma. The development of predictive models will move trauma analysis away from untestable and unempirical heuristic-based interpretations toward robust statistically-founded conclusions. This project addresses the need for validated trauma research, which is imperative within forensic anthropology and in numerous other disciplines, including death investigation, forensic pathology, biomechanical engineering, and human rights work. Additionally, these findings will open further avenues of research in rib trauma analysis and aid in bridging the gap between theoretical and applied trauma research.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). ca/ncf