Rib Fracture Frequency and Location Using Vehicular Crash Data

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Cortney N. Hulse
Kyra E. Stull
Ashley Weaver


Trauma analysis is critical in many death investigations and is the primary reason forensic anthropologists testify. This study aims to improve our understanding of the frequency and location of rib fractures, so the anthropologist can be more informed when making interpretations of blunt force trauma to the rib cage. Data were collected from computed tomography images of 180 individuals who were over 18 years of age and were in a motor vehicle accident. Rib number, side of impact (left or right), specific location on the rib (anterior, posterior, lateral), and number of fractures were scored for each individual along with known demographic and crash data, such as age, sex, direction of impact, belted/unbelted, and speed at impact. Density plots, chi-square tests, logistic regression, and multiple correspondence analysis were conducted to explore relationships among the variables and visualize fracture patterns.

Age was the only significant variable for both the chi-square and logistic regression results. Individuals of advanced age are 5.5 times more likely to exhibit fractures than those of middle age, which are 2.6 times more likely to exhibit fractures than individuals in the youngest age category. Females of middle and advanced age incurred the most fractures per age and sex group, but males presented with the highest frequency of fractures overall. Density plots showed most fractures occurred on the lateral portions of ribs 2 through 8, regardless of direction of impact. The findings of this study demonstrate that age and sex should be considered when interpreting blunt force trauma on ribs.

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