Injury Definitions

Background Information

 Providing a framework for injury related topics is not an easy process. Most often, injury topics are categorized based on “intent”, (e.g. unintentional injury or intentional injury -violence) which is not always easily determined.  While this categorization scheme is not flawless, it is the generally accepted framework in which injury prevention practitioners currently discuss injury and violence related topics.  

From Injury Prevention and Public Health; Second Edition: “The conceptual distinction between ‘unintentional’ and ‘intentional’ injuries is in many ways more apparent than real. Certainly not all suicides are and homicides are entirely intended, no more than drunk driving deaths, boxing deaths, or occupational deaths are purely unintentional. From a prevention perspective, intent is only one relevant factor, along with access to the mechanism of injury, injury countermeasures, medical response, and the like."

Overview of Definitions

Injury (General):
Injury is defined as damage or harm to the body resulting in impairment or destruction of health; specifically, any unintentional and intentional damage to the body resulting from acute exposure to thermal, mechanical, electrical, or chemical energy that exceeds a threshold of tolerance in the body or from the absence of such essentials as heat or oxygen" (Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research and Safe States Alliance, 2005).

Violence (General):
The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation (World Health Organization, 2002). 


Specific Injury Definitions

Unintentional Injury:


Intentional Injury (Violence):


Other Injury:




Unintentional Injury

  • Drowning
    Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. Drowning outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity (World Health Organization, 2010).
  • Environmental Injury
    Injury resulting from exposure to adverse natural and environmental conditions (such as severe heat, severe cold, lightning, sunstroke, large storms, and natural disasters) as well as lack of food or water. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011; Definitions of data elements within WISQARS)
  • Falls
    A fall is an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level (World Health Organization, 2011).
  • Fire-related Injury/Burns
    A burn occurs when some or all of the different layers of cells in the skin are destroyed by a hot liquid (scald), a hot solid (contact burns) or a flame (flame burns). Skin injuries due to ultraviolet radiation, radioactivity, electricity or chemicals, as well as respiratory damage resulting from smoke inhalation, are also considered to be burns (World Health Organization, 2011).
  • Motor vehicle collision
    A motor vehicle collision, also known as a traffic accident, traffic collision, motor vehicle accident, car accident, automobile accident, Road Traffic Collision (RTC) or car crash, occurs when a vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other stationary obstruction, such as a tree or utility pole. Traffic collisions may result in injury, death and property damage.
    “Motor Vehicle Injury” encompasses several different types of injury situations and can be categorized according to single-vehicle crashes, multiple-vehicle crashes, truck-automobile crashes, and the like. It also can be categorized according to whether the victim was an occupant, a pedestrian, a motorcyclist, or a pedal cyclist. (Injury Prevention and Public Health; Second Edition)
  • Poisoning
    A poison is any substance, including medications, that is harmful to your body if too much is eaten, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin. Any substance can be poisonous if too much is taken (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
  • Sports & Recreational Injuries
    Sport and Recreational Injuries constitute a category determined by activity rather than by cause, and are classified by injuries that occur to those participating in sporting or recreational events. Injuries result from acute trauma or repetitive stress associated with athletic activities. Sports injuries can affect bones or soft tissue (ligaments, muscles, tendons) (Injury Prevention and Public Health; Second Edition and Webster Dictionary).
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
    Traumatic brain injury, also known as intracranial injury, occurs when an external force traumatically injures the brain. TBI can be classified based on severity, mechanism (closed or penetrating head injury), or other features (e.g. occurring in a specific location or over a widespread area). Head injury usually refers to TBI, but is a broader category because it can involve damage to structures other than the brain, such as the scalp and skull. (Wikipedia, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011)


Intentional Injury (Violence)

  • Child Maltreatment (CM): includes child abuse, child neglect
    Any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver (e.g., clergy, coach, and teacher) that result in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.
    Acts of Commission (child abuse) include words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child that are deliberate and intentional. Harm to a child may or may not be the intended consequence. Intentionality only applies to the caregivers' acts-not the consequences of those acts. Examples of maltreatment involving acts of commission include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.
    Acts of Omission (child neglect) include the failure to provide for a child's basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm. Like acts of commission, harm to a child may or may not be the intended consequence. Examples of maltreatment involving acts of omission include physical neglect, emotional neglect, medical/dental neglect, educational neglect, inadequate supervision and exposure to violent environments (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
  • Community Violence: includes neighborhood violence
    Violence that occurs primarily outside of the home and involves individuals who may or may not know each other, but who are unrelated.  Some of the acts that fall under the community violence umbrella include sexual assault, burglary, use of weapons, muggings, the sounds of bullet shots, as well as social disorder issues such as the presence of teen gangs, drugs, and racial divisions.  Additionally, community violence typically includes direct and indirect victimization, through experiencing violence, witnessing violence, or hearing about violence in one’s neighborhood.
  • Elder Abuse: includes elder maltreatment, elder mistreatment
    Elder maltreatment includes any abuse and neglect of persons age 60 and older by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust. Examples of elder maltreatment include physical abuse, sexual abuse /abusive sexual contact, psychological or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial abuse or exploitation(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
  • Homicide
  • Death due to the intentional assault of another person by any means:
    - Intent to kill is not necessary for a homicide to occur
    - Homicides, as well as all other forms of violence, are associated with intentional behaviors (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
  • Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): includes domestic violence
    Intimate Partner Violence includes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy. IPV can vary in frequency and severity. It occurs on a continuum, ranging from one hit that may or may not impact the victim to chronic, severe battering. The four main types of IPV include physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and psychological or emotional violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
  • School Violence
    School Violence typically refers to student-on-student and student-on-teacher acts of physical harm (Stuart Henry, What is School Violence? An Integrated Definition, ANNALS, AAPSS, 567, January 2000).
  • Sexual Violence
    Sexual violence includes any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone's will. SV encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed nonconsensual sex act (i.e., rape), an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (i.e., unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment). All types involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
  • Suicide
    is death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior. Suicidal behavior exists along a continuum from thinking about ending one's life, to developing a plan, to non-fatal suicidal behavior, to ending one's life. Suicidal ideation includes thoughts of harming or killing oneself. The severity of suicidal ideation can be determined by assessing the frequency, intensity, and duration of these thoughts. Suicide attempt is a non-fatal self-directed potentially injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior.  A suicide attempt may or may not result in injury. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
  • Youth Violence: includes bullying, peer harassment, gang violence
    Youth violence is typically defined as interpersonal violence in persons between the ages of 10-24, although patterns of youth violence can begin in early childhood. Interpersonal violence is defined as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person or against a group or community that results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation" (Dahlberg and Krug 2002, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).

Other Injury

  • Firearm Injury
    A firearm injury is a penetrating force injury resulting from a bullet or other projectile shot from a firearm device. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011)
  • Mass Casualty Event
    A mass casualty incident (often shortened to MCI and sometimes called a multiple-casualty incident or multiple-casualty situation) is any incident in which emergency medical services resources, such as personnel and equipment, are overwhelmed by the number and severity of casualties (Brady Prehospital Emergency Care Sixth Edition; Mistovich, Joseph J. et al pg, 866).   
  • Occupational Injury
    An occupational injury is bodily damage resulting from working. (Wikipedia 2011, refer to Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Injury and Illness Classification Manual for further classification)