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Discrimination of Falls and Blows in Blunt Head Trauma: Systematic Study of the Hat Brim Line Rule in Relation to Skull Fractures

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In the discrimination of falls from blows in blunt head trauma, the hat brim line rule is one of the most often used criteria. The present study assesses the validity of the hat brim line rule for skull fractures and looks at other possible criteria. All autopsy cases were retrospectively analyzed on a 5-year period. Cases selected consisted of downstairs falls (n = 13), falls from one’s own height (n = 23), and homicidal blows (n = 44). Results show that fractures above the hat brim line are more in favor of blows, while fractures in the hat brim line zone are more difficult to distinguish. The majority of fractures were located on the left side for homicidal blows and on the right side for falls. A higher average number of lacerations was revealed for homicidal blows. In conclusion, this study establishes three criteria in favor of blows: (i) localization of a wound above the hat brim line; (ii) left side lateralization; and (iii) a high number of lacerations.
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Keywords: blunt head trauma; forensic anthropology; forensic science; hat brim line; skull fractures

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-05-01

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