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An Unusual Autopsy Case of Incomplete Decapitation of a Motorcyclist With Herniation of Thoracic Organs Through a Helmet-Related Neck Wound

Gioia, Sara MD; Suadoni, Fabio MD; Carlini, Luigi MD; Lancia, Massimo MD; Bacci, Mauro MD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: December 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 4 - p 325–327
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000060
Case Reports

The authors report an unusual autopsy case of a motorcyclist who wore a full-face type helmet and had incomplete decapitation and herniation of the heart and a portion of the right lung through an extensive lacerate wound on the front of the neck after his motorcycle crashed.

The authors identified 2 main offensive dynamics that occurred simultaneously: First, partial decapitation with a extensive gaping wound on the neck caused by the chin strap after a violent angular movement of the head; second, the translocation of the abdominal organs into the thorax and the herniation of the thoracic organs through the neck wound generated by a compressive trauma of the thorax and abdomen.

This singular case, like few others in forensic literature, shows the possibility of helmet chin strap–related traumas and highlights the limitations of modern protective helmets. If the postulated mechanism is confirmed despite the massive benefits derived from the compulsory use of protective helmets, the properties of the helmet chin strap would need to be reassessed to improve the protection of the soft tissue and bones in the neck.

From the Section of Legal Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.

Manuscript received July 6, 2012; accepted December 5, 2012.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Massimo Lancia, MD, Section of Legal Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy 06126. E-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.