Defense Injuries

Certain types of injuries may be described as defense injuries. These injuries typically are seen when an individual has tried to defend himself or herself against an attack and are the result of instinctive reactions to assault. Some individuals, for example, the very young and the very old, are less capable of offering much defense against the perpetrators of assault. When attacked with blunt objects, most individuals will attempt to protect their eyes, head, and neck by raising their arms, flexing their elbows, and covering their head and neck. As a result, the exposed surfaces of the arms become the impact point for blows. Thus, the extensor surface of the forearms (the ulnar side), the lateral/ posterior aspects of the upper arm, and the dorsum of the hands may receive blows. Similarly, the outer and posterior aspects of lower limbs and back may be injured when an individual curls into a ball, with flexion of spine, knees, and hips to protect the anterior part of the body.

In sharp-blade attacks, the natural reaction is to try and disarm the attacker, often by grabbing the knife blade. This results in cuts to the palm and ulnar aspect of the hand. Occasionally, the hands or arms may be raised to protect the body against the stabbing motion, resulting in stab wounds to the defense areas.

In blunt-force attacks, the injuries sustained usually take the form of bruises if the victim is being punched or kicked, but there may also be abrasions and/or lacerations depending on the nature of the weapon used. If the victim is lying on the ground while being assaulted, he or she will tend to curl up into a fetal position to protect the face and the front of the trunk, particularly from kicks. In these circumstances, defensive bruising is likely to be seen on other surfaces of the trunk and limbs.

The absence of defense injuries in persons otherwise apparently capable of defending themselves against an assault may be particularly significant if it is believed that other injuries found on the victim could have been self-inflicted or if it is believed that they were incapacitated through alcohol, drugs, or other injury.

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