Semester of Graduation

Summer 2022


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Research regarding percentage of a population presenting a collapsed vertebra is limited within the anthropological field. There is great importance in collecting this data, especially within older populations, to assess collapse patterns and use findings to advance medical treatment. Findings can also be compared to occurrence of vertebral collapse in prehistoric and historic populations to assess the theoretical and evolutionary implications that collapsed vertebrae can have on a population. Based on previous research, 25% of elderly individuals have at least one vertebral compression fracture (VCF). Within a modern skeletal collection of individuals 55 years of age and older at Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility that is used in this study, the hypothesis was that at least 25% of individuals will present at least one collapse. This hypothesis was based on the increased likelihood that post-menopausal women and elderly individuals had a higher chance of developing at least one collapsed vertebra in their lifetime. Regarding ethnic descent of the 100 individuals in the sample, 90% were European, 4% were Hispanic, 2% were African, 1% were Native American, 1% were Asian, and 2% were of unknown descent. The Vertebral Body Compression Ratio (VBCR), computed as anterior height of vertebral body/posterior height of vertebral body, was used to categorize a vertebra as being collapsed. VBCR ≤ 0.80 was used to show evidence of a vertebral compression fracture. A total of 80 collapsed vertebrae were found throughout the sample occurring among 44 individuals. The greatest instances of collapse occurred within thoracic vertebrae with the highest occurrences in the eleventh and twelfth thoracic and first lumbar vertebrae. Other principal results are as follows: (1) among all individuals with three or more collapsed vertebrae, at least two of these vertebrae were in sequence; (2) non-significant association between prevalence of collapsed vertebrae and advancing age; and (3) males have significantly higher prevalence of vertebral collapse than females. Some of these results are not the typical findings within the literature. Of particular interest is higher prevalence rate of VCF among males compared to females. Future studies should look into what differences between the sexes can lead to a higher prevalence of VCF.

Committee Chair

Robert Tague

Available for download on Sunday, May 20, 2029