Violent shaking of an infant for just 3 to 4 seconds can cause severe brain injury according to a joint study by researchers at the University of Louisville and University of Washington. Gina Bertocci, UofL endowed chair of biomechanics and bioengineering, said she was interested in finding out if shaking alone could cause injury or even death in babies. According to Bertocci, a 1987 study found shaking, by itself, would not routinely cause brain injury to a small child.
“Defense attorneys (in child abuse cases) are saying ‘well here’s this 1987 study Dr. Bertocci and it says that you could shake a baby and there would not necessarily be any injury,’” said Bertocci who occasionally testifies in child abuse cases. “Now I’m going to be able to counter that and be able to say ‘guess what – here’s our study that says differently.'”
The research involved an adult shaking what Bertocci described as “an infant crash test dummy” with lots of instrumentation to record the baby’s head acceleration. The UofL research found head accelerations 10 times higher than the 1987 study with the most violent coming when the baby’s chin struck its chest.
Bertocci hopes the results of her research will be used by prosecutors of child abuse cases “to assure that justice is delivered to those that have perpetrated these horrible crimes.”
You can hear more about Bertocci’s research in her interview on “UofL Today with Mark Hebert.”