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Wien Med Wochenschr. 2011 Oct;161(19-20):458-68. doi: 10.1007/s10354-011-0909-3. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

An evaluation of applied biomechanics as an adjunct to systematic specific causation in forensic medicine.

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, USA.


Biomechanical tests of post hoc probability have been proposed by prior authors as reliable tests of causation in forensic settings. Biomechanical assessment of injury kinetics and kinematics is a potentially important tool in forensic medicine, but there is also the potential for misapplication. The most reliable application is when biomechanical analysis is used to explain injury mechanisms, such as how an injury may have occurred. When a biomechanical analysis is used as a means of determining whether, rather than how an injury has resulted from a traumatic exposure, then a lack of reliability of the methodology limits its application in forensic medicine. Herein, we describe a systematic assessment of causation by adapting established general causation principles to specific causation scenarios, and how biomechanical analysis of injury mechanics is properly used to augment such an approach in conjunction with the principles of forensic epidemiology. An example calculation of relative risk associated with cervical spine injury is provided as a representative probabilistic metric for assessing causation. The statistical benefits and limitations of biomechanical analysis are discussed as an adjunct to forensic medicine.

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