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Preliminary study into the skeletal injuries sustained to the spine from posterior non-perforating ballistic impacts into body armour
  1. Rosalind M Jennings1,
  2. C Malbon2,
  3. F Brock1,
  4. S E Harrisson3 and
  5. D J Carr2
  1. 1 Cranfield Forensic Institute, Cranfield University, Defence Academy of the UK, Shrivenham, Wiltshire, SN6 8LA, UK
  2. 2 Impact and Armour Group, Centre for Defence Engineering, Cranfield University, Defence Academy of the UK, Shrivenham, Wiltshire, SN6 8LA, UK
  3. 3 Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr D J Carr, Now at: Defence and Security Accelerator, Porton Down, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 0JQ, UK; djcarr{at}


Introduction The aim of this paper was to examine any injuries from posterior behind armour blunt trauma ballistic impacts directly over the spine onto typical hard body armours. Due to the spine being close to the surface of the skin and a lack of any previous specific research into this topic, this study was designed to gain preliminary insight into the mechanisms involved and injuries caused. Pigs were chosen as the closest representative of human spine, tissue and skin, although their spines are deeper under the surface than humans. Baseline spine and ribs shots were conducted to ensure that the study was effective.

Method This study used a 65 kg cadaveric pig eviscerated torso and 7.62 NATO ammunition (7.62×51; L2A2; mean velocity=838 m/s, SD=4 m/s) impacting hard body armour plates over the spine. Injuries were inspected, and sections were removed for X-ray and micro-CT assessment.

Results There was no visible soft tissue damage under the impact point on the armour over the spine, and no bony injuries were reported. Baseline rib shots resulted in multiple rib fractures; some showed minimal displacement of the bone. Baseline spine shot resulted in damage across the spine involving spinal cord and bone.

Conclusion No injuries were noted from the spinal impacts, and the rib shots resulted in injuries consistent with those previously reported. The anatomical differences between pigs and humans does not preclude that bony injuries could occur in a human from these types of spinal ballistic impacts.

  • forensic medicine
  • spine
  • risk management

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  • Contributors CM suggested this study, which was conducted by RMJ and supervised by DC and CM. FB and SEH helped with some data collection and interpretation of the data. RMJ wrote this manuscript, which all other authors commented on.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for the work was granted (approved 16/11/2016, ref: CURES/2151/2016).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.