Volume 49, Issue 1 (January 2004)
The Influence of Behavior on Freefall Injury Patterns: Possible Implications for Forensic Anthropological Investigations
Case studies of freefall injuries suggest that most falls from heights result in lower extremity, pelvic, and vertebral fractures. These injuries are largely a consequence of the fact that most falls are accidental with victims landing feet first. This study investigates whether human behavioral response affects body orientation at impact and whether the human body tends to align in a particular way as a result of physical laws. The investigation was undertaken by observing nine experimental falls of an anthropomorphic dummy from a height of 65 ft (9.8 m). In all nine falls, the dummy landed horizontally, suggesting that the human form has a tendency to align horizontally during freefall for falls greater than 50 ft (15.24 m). This has important implications for the potential use of injury patterns in the deduction of pre-fall circumstances, which are discussed here with respect to a case study of a fall victim.