Departmental Papers (BE)

Document Type

Journal Article

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Publication Source

Journal of Neurosurgery





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Object: Rotational loading conditions have been shown to produce subdural hemorrhage and diffuse axonal injury. No experimental data are available with which to compare the rotational response of the head of an infant during accidental and inflicted head injuries. The authors sought to compare rotational deceleration sustained by the head among free falls, from different heights onto different surfaces, with those sustained during shaking and inflicted impact.

Methods: An anthropomorphic surrogate of a 1.5-month-old human infant was constructed and used to simulate falls from 0.3 m (1 ft), 0.9 m (3 ft), and 1.5 m (5 ft), as well as vigorous shaking and inflicted head impact. During falls, the surrogate experienced occipital contact against a concrete surface, carpet pad, or foam mattress. For shakes, investigators repeatedly shook the surrogate in an anteroposterior plane; inflicted impact was defined as the terminal portion of a vigorous shake, in which the surrogate’s occiput made contact with a rigid or padded surface. Rotational velocity was recorded directly and the maximum (peak–peak) change in angular velocity ( max) and the peak angular acceleration ( max) were calculated. Analysis of variance revealed significant increases in the max and max associated with falls onto harder surfaces and from higher heights. During inflicted impacts against rigid surfaces, the max and max were significantly greater than those measured under all other conditions.

Conclusions: Vigorous shakes of this infant model produced rotational responses similar to those resulting from minor falls, but inflicted impacts produced responses that were significantly higher than even a 1.5-m fall onto concrete. Because larger accelerations are associated with an increasing likelihood of injury, the findings indicate that inflicted impacts against hard surfaces are more likely to be associated with inertial brain injuries than falls from a height less than 1.5 m or from shaking.


brain injury, child abuse, diffuse axonal injury, subdural hematoma, children



Date Posted: 25 May 2016

This document has been peer reviewed.