Deliberate Injuries 81 Baton Blows

Blows from a baton are usually easily identified because forceful blows produce the classic "tram line"-type injuries on the skin. "Tram line" injuries are typical of a blow from a linear blunt object; the areas of the skin that are most traumatized are not those at the middle of the site of contact where the skin is most evenly compressed but rather at the margins on the contact site where the stretching and distortion of the skin and, hence the damage to the underlying tissues, including the blood vessels, is most pronounced. A linear object will, almost by definition, have two such margins, which run parallel, and a blow from such an object results in two linear parallel bruises; hence, the terminology "tram line."

Blows from a baton may also result in deeper bruising, nerve damage, and fractured bones. The deeper injuries tend to reflect the use of greater force, but it is not possible to correlate with any degree of certainty the amount of force needed to cause a particular injury in any individual.

It is essential for both the forensic physician who examines a living victim of a baton blow to the head (or from any other cause) and the pathologist who performs a postmortem examination to remember that significant cerebral trauma can be caused in the absence of obvious external trauma or skull fractures, and it would be prudent to assess anyone who has received or complains of receiving a head injury from a baton or from any other cause and to consider carefully if referral to hospital for a full neurological assessment is advisable.

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