Infant Skulls Only a Fraction as Strong as Adult Skulls

December 11, 2000

Infant Skulls

Although most people assume that infants are born with weaker bones, no one had studied the strength of infants' skulls until this year. It is important to know what forces the skull can withstand so that better ways to protect the brain can be developed. A paper published by researchers in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania has demonstrated that the infant skull is only a fraction as strong as an adult skull.

To investigate the strength of the skull, scientists put samples of skulls under various stress tests. They found that not only is the infant skull less strong than the adult skull, but the areas where they skull bones come together ("bone sutures") are also less strong.

This study suggests that head injuries suffered by children may cause different types of damage to the brain compared to head injuries in adults. Moreover, these results suggest that safety equipment such as helmets should be designed differently for children than for adults.

A child's skull is not just a small adult's skull.

Reference: Margulies, S.S. and Thibault, K.L. Infant skull and suture properties: measurements and implications for mechanisms of pediatric brain injury. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 122:364-371, 2000.

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