Skeletal Trauma Resulting From Fatal Low (≤3 m) Free Falls: An Analysis of Fracture Patterns and Morphologies

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Abstract

The skeletal trauma resulting from fatal low (≤3 m) free falls is poorly researched and understood by forensic practitioners. The aim of this study was to identify the types of skeletal trauma resulting from low falls through investigating fracture patterns and morphologies. Skeletal trauma was analyzed using full-body postmortem computed tomography scans of 145 individuals who died from a low free fall. Trauma was then contextualized to the variables that influence how a person falls using multiple logistic regression. Results showed fracture patterning primarily involved the axial skeleton and that there were a number of patterns significantly associated with the height fallen, pre-existing health conditions, and age. Analysis of fracture morphologies showed 108 possible fracture types, six of which were significantly associated with the height fallen. Understanding the skeletal trauma characteristic of low free falls will further inform anthropological interpretations of trauma in cases where a fall may be considered the possible mechanism.

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