Blunt Force Skeletal Trauma Research Methods A Multidisciplinary Perspective

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Angela L. Harden
Kyra E. Stull
John H. Bolte
Yun-Seok Kang
Amanda M. Agnew


A key component of the forensic anthropological examination is skeletal trauma analysis, which accounts for the majority of forensic anthropologists’ expert testimonies. However, a major gap in the current knowledge surrounding skeletal trauma has been identified, specifically the data necessary to conduct comprehensive bone trauma analysis with established error rates are lacking. Current methods and standards of skeletal blunt force trauma analysis rarely meet Daubert guidelines that require: (1) validated studies, (2) peer review, (3) known or potential error rate, and (4) general acceptance, nor do they provide data or analyses that are comprehensible to the medicolegal community and the general public. Therefore, a multidisciplinary approach with a biomechanical emphasis is critical to improve the validity of skeletal trauma analysis and interpretation through precise, accurate, and repeatable analytical methods. The objectives of this review are to: (1) provide an overview of current approaches to blunt force skeletal trauma research across disciplines while highlighting the applications, strengths, and limitations of these methods, and (2) address gaps in discipline-specific methodologies to emphasize the importance of multidisciplinary scientific teams for improvement of skeletal trauma research. This review highlights the need for large-scale controlled experimental bone trauma studies utilizing human specimens and the various methodologies available for further skeletal trauma research.

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