Volume 49, Issue 6 (November 2004)
Understanding Rib Fracture Patterns: Incomplete and Buckle Fractures
Reconstructing traumatic thoracic events, especially when soft tissues are absent, requires an advanced understanding of ribcage fracture patterns. The morphology and orientation of ribs complicate the fracture pattern, as a single blow often causes multiple fractures at various locations. Furthermore, fracture types observed in ribs are not explained easily by current bone biomechanic literature. Using evidential skeletal material archived at the Regional Forensic Center, Memphis, the ribs of 43 blunt force trauma cases were analyzed. A total of 195 incomplete fractures and 63 buckle fractures were noted. Incomplete fractures, previously thought to be common in children but rare in adults, were found among individuals ranging in age from 21–76 years. A buckle fracture, failure resulting from compressive instability, has been undefined previously in bone trauma literature but was repeatedly observed in this sample. This study elucidates recognizable rib fracture patterns while emphasizing gross bone examination for force and mechanical factors.