Pediatric short-distance household falls: Biomechanics and associated injury severity

Angela K. Thompson, Gina Bertocci*, Wayne Rice, Mary C. Pierce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Objectives: Short-distance household falls are a common occurrence in young children, but are also a common false history given by caretakers to conceal abusive trauma. The purpose of this study was to determine the severity of injuries that result from accidental short-distance household falls in children, and to investigate the association of fall environment and biomechanical measures with injury outcomes. Methods: Children aged 0-4 years who presented to the Emergency Department with a history of a short furniture fall were included in the study. Detailed case-based biomechanical assessments were performed using data collected through medical records, interviews, and fall scene investigations. Injuries were rated using the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS). Each case was reviewed by a child abuse expert; cases with a vague or inconsistent history and cases being actively investigated for child abuse were excluded. Results: 79 subjects were enrolled in the study; 15 had no injuries, 45 had minor (AIS 1) injuries, 17 had moderate (AIS 2) injuries, and 2 had serious (AIS 3) injuries. No subjects had injuries classified as AIS 4 or higher, and there were no fatalities. Children with moderate or serious injuries resulting from a short-distance household fall tended to have fallen from greater heights, have greater impact velocities, and have a lower body mass index than those with minor or no injuries. Conclusion: Children aged 0-4 years involved in a short-distance household fall did not sustain severe or life-threatening injuries, and no children in this study had moderate or serious injuries to multiple body regions. Biomechanical measures were found to be associated with injury severity outcomes in short-distance household falls. Knowledge of relationships between biomechanical measures and injury outcomes can aid clinicians when assessing whether a child's injuries were the result of a short-distance fall or some other cause.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


  • Accidental falls
  • Biomechanics
  • Child abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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