Gina Bertocci, UofL endowed chair of biomechanics and bioengineering
Gina Bertocci, UofL endowed chair of biomechanics and bioengineering

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.”

Mark Hebert
Following a 28-year career as a radio and television reporter, Mark Hebert joined the University of Louisville as the Director of Media Relations in 2009, serving as the main spokesperson. In 2015, Mark was named Director of Programming and Production. He’s now producing and hosting a radio show about “all things UofL”, overseeing the university’s video and TV productions and promoting UofL’s research operation. Mark is best known for his 22 years as the political and investigative reporter for WHAS-TV in Louisville where he won numerous awards for breaking stories, exposing corruption and objectively covering Kentucky politics. In 2014, Mark was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.