Probabilistic description of infant head kinematics in abusive head trauma

Abusive head trauma (AHT) is a potentially fatal result of child abuse, but the mechanisms by which injury occur are often unclear. To investigate the contention that shaking alone can elicit the injuries observed, effective computational models are necessary. The aim of this study was to develop a probabilistic model describing infant head kinematics in AHT. A deterministic model incorporating an infant’s mechanical properties, subjected to different shaking motions, was developed in OpenSim. A Monte Carlo analysis was used to simulate the range of infant kinematics produced as a result of varying both the mechanical properties and the type of shaking motions. By excluding physically unrealistic shaking motions, worst-case shaking scenarios were simulated and compared to existing injury criteria for a newborn, a 4.5 month-old, and a 12 month-old infant. In none of the three cases were head kinematics observed to exceed previously-estimated subdural haemorrhage injury thresholds. The results of this study provide no biomechanical evidence to demonstrate how shaking by a human alone can cause the injuries observed in AHT, suggesting either that additional factors, such as impact, are required, or that the current estimates of injury thresholds are incorrect.