Since radiating fractures resulting from blunt force and gunshot trauma are commonly measured and analyzed in skeletal trauma analyses, the current study tested three radiating fracture measurement techniques to determine which has the least amount of interobserver error: (1) Microscribe digitizer; (2) flexible measuring tape; and (3) Scale Master digital plan measure.
Radiating fractures were the result of gunshot trauma from a larger project focusing on fracture patterns. Forty-five donated human heads were shot either anteriorly through the frontal bone or laterally through the temporal/parietal bone(s) prior to soft tissue removal. The study randomly selected two radiating fractures on each cranium to measure. Measurements were recorded by practitioners with various levels of osteological experience. One-way MANOVAs assessed interobserver error for each technique with an alpha set to .05. The results indicate that there is no statistically significant difference between observers regardless of technique (p=.777 for the digitizer; p=.980 for the flexible measuring tape; and p=.871 for the Scale Master); however, when comparing the effect-size statistics for each of the techniques, the results indicated that the flexible measuring tape measurements were the most affected by the skill of the observer, followed by the Scale Master measurements. The digitizer was the least affected by observer skill, making the digitizer the most precise technique of those tested; however, not every lab has access to a digitizer, so the researchers recommend the use of a Scale Master as an alternative to the measuring tape when a digitizer is not available. (publisher abstract modified)