Letters

Serious effects of shaking were described in 1971

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6994.1600b (Published 17 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1600
  1. A Norma Guthkelch
  1. Retired professor of neurosurgery 6A Saint John's Road, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

    EDITOR,—I am disappointed that Helen Carty and Jane Ratcliffe wrongly give priority to the late John Caffey for recognising the potentially serious effects of shaking babies.1 Caffey was the first to implicate parental violence in the aetiology of infantile subdural haematoma associated with fractures of the skull and long bones, and for that his fame is secure. But the first mention of shaking of infants as a cause of subdural haematoma appeared in the BMJ in a paper that I wrote almost a year before Caffey's paper was published.2

    Unlike Caffey, I never believed that such shaking was playful; rather, I suggested that it was thought of as a socially more acceptable form of correction than a beating, and I referred to a paper by Court in which she told of a mother confessing to shaking her baby “in an insane rage.” I also noted how infants' big heads and relatively weak neck muscles, to which the editorial refers, made them particularly liable to sustain brain injury under these circumstances.

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