Chop wounds are otherwise known as slash wounds. They are a type of incised wounds made by chopping or hacking motion with a sharp and heavy weapon. They are deep gaping wounds caused by a weapon like a hatchet, an axe, sword, broad heavy knife, chopper, saber, or meat cleaver. These wounds are inflicted with a swinging action usually in a vertical or oblique plane from top to bottom and hence the head is the most favorable location of the attack.
If the whole blade strikes the body at the same time, the depth may be the same throughout the wound. Usually, the heel of the axe strikes the surface first and will produce a deeper wound than the upper end. These types of wounds mainly causes amputation.
The target for chopping attacks was found to be primarily the head and neck region, followed by the trunk. They were also more likely to have sustained defensive wounds whilst trying to ward off and block blows to the body.
The tissues will be cut and divided cleanly and the bones might be notched, cut, or chipped. The piece of bone may also get shaved off. The side where the skull receives the impact might show a clean cut and the inner side will show fracturing with inwardly directed bone chips. Linear fractures were also found radiating from bony injuries.
Features of Chop Wounds
- They are produced by a relatively heavy sharp weapon.
- The edges of chop wounds are not so sharp and the margins show bruising or abrasion. The abrasion was thought to be because of the bluntness of the blade used, or due to the presence of rust and not because of the thickness of the blades.
- The wound is comparatively wider and deeper than incised wounds.
- The margins will be beveling if the wound is inflicted obliquely.
- The weight of the weapon acts as a crucial force to penetrate the weapon into the tissues considerably.
- The dimensions of the wound correspond to the cross section of the penetrating portion of the blade.
- A chop wound has 2 parts. The part of the wound which is near to the assailant. This end is known as the heel end and may be deeper than the toe end. Thus, by identifying the heel and toe end, the relative position of the assailant and the victim can be estimated.
When a chop wound is inflicted in the skull, the undermined edge of the fracture will be in the direction in which the force was exerted. The slanted edge is the side from which the force was directed.
In the long bones, the bone fragments get loosened on the opposite side of the force. When a heavy weapon is used, the initial impact will cleanly slice through the bone on one edge. But the rebound removal of the weapon is at a slightly different angle mostly because of the relative movement between the bone and the blade.
This cracks off an irregular fragment of the bone from the opposite side so that the defect has one smooth and one rough edge particularly near the ends of the chop wound. These types of wounds can cause disarticulation or amputation.
Wounds inflicted in the head or neck region can turn to be fatal. A piece of the skull may get removed if the weapon is struck obliquely. If it is tangential, then a disk-shaped portion of the bone, skin, or soft tissue may be cut away.
Most of these injuries are homicidal and usually inflicted on the exposed portions of the body like the head, face, neck, shoulders, and extremities.
Accidental injuries are caused by power fans, band saws, or ship or airplane propellers, which may lacerate the soft tissues extensively or amputate parts of the body.
Suicidal chop wounds are very rare. The type of weapon, direction, and angle of force can be estimated and the age of the injury can also be known.