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Penetrating Trauma vs. Blunt Trauma

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  • 0:04 Two Types of Trauma
  • 0:31 Blunt Trauma
  • 2:24 Penetrating Trauma
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Are you confused about the difference between penetrating trauma and blunt trauma? This lesson clearly explains the two types of trauma and gives numerous examples of each.

Two Types of Trauma

Let's be blunt here, penetrating trauma vs. blunt trauma isn't all that difficult to understand. We can very quickly define blunt trauma as an injury caused by a dull object or surface. This is in contrast to penetrating trauma, which is an injury caused by a sharp object penetrating the body.

These are all very simple definitions, however. Let's actually look at the nuanced aspects of both types of trauma and examples of each.

Blunt Trauma

We can define blunt trauma a bit more specifically than in the introduction. Blunt trauma can be defined as trauma that stems from forces like compression (crushing), shearing (tearing), acceleration, and deceleration. Sometimes, a combination of some or all of these may occur in an injurious event.

Here are some examples of this. Bob is lying underneath a car he just jacked up. He's trying to fix something. The car collapses onto him and compresses (crushes) him. This is blunt force trauma.

In a parallel universe, this doesn't happen. Bob fixes the car and drives off to work. On the way to work, he smashes into a moose. From the perspective of the moose, the moose had an acceleration force applied to its body as the faster-moving object (car) slammed into him. From Bob's perspective, his body experienced deceleration forces, since his car (and body) came to a sudden stop. Both the moose and Bob experience blunt force trauma from the accident.

Car accidents also create shearing forces. This is the opposite of compression. In compression, the forces are aligned at one another and crush things. In shearing, they are moving in opposite directions to create tears.

If this is hard to understand, pretend your thumb and index finger represent a force and their direction of movement (as you move the fingers). Pinch your skin. The forces moved towards one another and compressed or crushed the skin. If you were to try to spread your skin apart with your fingers, the forces move in opposite directions to tear your skin apart.

Here are some other examples of blunt trauma:

  • A fall, especially from a great height
  • A bomb blast
  • Being hit with a blunt object like a baseball bat or even a fist
  • Getting your hand crushed in a door frame by a door
  • Skidding across the freeway after falling off a motorcycle

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