Head and neck injuries in fatal motorcycle collisions as determined by detailed autopsy

Annu Proc Assoc Adv Automot Med. 2002;46:125-37.


Detailed layer-by-layer autopsy of the head and neck was performed on a series of seventy-three fatally injured motorcyclists in order to identify occult soft tissue injuries such as subluxation of the cervical spine or hemorrhage of vertebral or internal carotid arteries. The fatal cases were gathered as part of a larger study of 1082 on-scene in-depth motorcycle crash investigations in Thailand. Injuries were coded using the 1990 Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS 90) and an Injury Severity Score (ISS) was determined for each case. Twenty-eight motorcyclists had been wearing a helmet at the start of the collision sequence, but only nine helmets remained in place through the entire collision event. Both helmeted and unhelmeted motorcyclists showed a high frequency of neck injuries such as hemorrhages in the carotid sheath compressing the vagus nerve, hemorrhages surrounding the phrenic nerves or the brachial plexus, or hemorrhages surrounding the vertebral arteries. The most significant finding of this study was the identification of serious internal neck injuries even when there was no external physical evidence of trauma to the neck. Virtually all riders with significant head injuries showed some of these soft tissue neck injuries. This may be important for trauma physicians, who are presented with critically injured motorcyclists with complex multiple trauma, which may include occult soft tissue neck injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abbreviated Injury Scale
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / mortality*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / pathology
  • Head Protective Devices
  • Humans
  • Motorcycles*
  • Neck Injuries / etiology
  • Neck Injuries / mortality*
  • Neck Injuries / pathology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / etiology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / pathology
  • Thailand / epidemiology