An Assessment of the Skeletal Fracture Patterns Resulting from Fatal High (˃3 m) Free Falls

Samantha K. Rowbotham, Soren Blau, Jacqueline Hislop-Jambrich, Victoria Francis

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5 Citations (Scopus)


The injury patterns resulting from fatal high (˃3 m) free falls have previously been documented in clinical and medico-legal contexts; however, details relating specifically to the skeletal blunt force trauma (BFT) have been limited. This study aimed to augment what is known of the skeletal fracture patterns resulting from fatal high free falls. Skeletal trauma was analyzed from full-body postmortem computed tomography scans of 95 individuals who died following a high free fall. Fracture patterns were documented using the five general anatomical regions, axial and appendicular regions, and postcranial unilateral and bilateral regions. Patterns were analyzed in the context of the extrinsic and intrinsic variables that may influence fractures using multiple logistic regression. Fracture patterns involved all aspects of the skeleton, with 98.9% exhibiting polytrauma, and were influenced primarily by the height fallen, manner of death, and landing surface. This improved understanding of fracture patterns will augment anthropological interpretations of the mechanism of BFT in cases of suspected high falls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-68
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • blunt force trauma
  • forensic anthropology
  • forensic science
  • fracture pattern
  • high free fall
  • postmortem computed tomography
  • skeletal trauma

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