A urologist by the name of John Lattimer introduced the idea that it was a Thorburn position. Thorburn was a doctor in Manchester, England who in 1886 wrote about a case - a single case- in which a man who had suffered damage to the spinal cord at the level of C5 experienced a contraction of his biceps and deltoid muscles as seen below. The drawing below accompanied Thorburn's article.
As you can see, there was no movement of the hands to the neck in Thorburn's patient. And note that he suffered "complete transverse destruction of the spinal cord immediately below the 5th cervical vertebra" and we know Kennedy didn't experience that. And be aware of something else: THE MAN WAS RENDERED IMMEDIATELY UNCONSCIOUS FROM THE TRAUMA. And we know that didn't happen to Kennedy either. Also, it was only 4 days after the trauma, while the man was in a coma, that he went into that Thorburn position. Again, it has no bearing whatsoever on Kennedy.
The idea that JFK is exhibiting a Thorburn reaction is pure, utter nonsense with no grounding whatsoever.
In researching this, I found a video about it by Gil Jesus, and let's just say that Gil Jesus, though he is not a doctor, beats the living bejesus out of John Lattimer.
I am so impressed with the above video that I sought out and found Gil Jesus' email address, and I have written to him, inviting him to become the next senior member of the Oswald Innocence Campaign.
And I also found an interesting exchange about this on the Politics.ie forum, which I'll share. I love it when I find people who think the way I do, and I am referring to someone who goes by the name Uttercontempt. Gotta love that name. I know how he feels.
Uttercontempt: The first shot that hit Kennedy went through his neck/shoulder region. After this shot he is seen lifting his right arm to 90 degrees and grabbing his neck. My issue would be that a high velocity bullet traveling through this region would do enormous damage to the neck region, including damaging the muscles and nerves. I really doubt a person shot in this region would be able to immediately lift their right arm.
Balaclava: Kennedy appears to be clenching his fists and his elbows are sticking out which is very like the neuro-muscular spasm known as Thorburn's position.
Uttercontempt: Yes I am aware of that but it would have passed through an area containing the right brachial plexus, a large bundle of nerves that supply the upper limb.
Balaclava: And likely would have produced a neuro-muscular spasm such as clenched fists shooting up to the neck and elbows raised and sticking out.
Uttercontempt: Interesting the Thorburn position, I had never heard of it, nor seen it, and I have seen plenty of high spinal injuries. And why was it both arms if the bullet missed the spine? (good point- Cinque)
Balaclava: The theory was put forward by Dr. John Lattimer who wrote a detailed book on the medical aspects of the assassination in the 1980 book Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical & Ballistic Comparisons of Their Assassinations.
Uttercontempt: Yes, but the "Thorburn position" was described only once in 1886 and referred to a C5 spinal injury. It has, as far as I know, never been demonstrated/described since. Anyway Kennedy did not have a spinal cord injury; you said so yourself.
Balaclava: But that fact remains that Kennedy did have a wound through the back of his neck and his hands DID rise to his throat. Whether it was a possible Thorburn position or not changes nothing. He was wounded through the neck by a projectile which create the wounds as described in photos, x-rays and the autopsy.
Cinque: Note that last response from Balaclava said NOTHING. Argumentatively, it advanced nothing. And, Kennedy had a wound at the level of T3, NOT through the back of his neck. Would anyone in his right mind call this a neck wound?
Uttercontempt: The wound in the neck should have created far more damage (the neck wound in front was enlarged by the tracheostomy). The fact remains that the path of a high velocity bullet through the right side of the neck should have destroyed the brachial plexus and the external rotators of the scapula.
Balaclava gave up after that and went on to something else.
The bottom line is that JFK was NOT exhibiting a Thorburn reaction, which occurred in someone who suffered destruction of the spinal cord at the level of C5 and was rendered immediately unconscious from it.
Had Kennedy suffered a bullet channel clear through his neck from back to front, he very likely would have lost consciousness immediately, and he surely would have lost his ability to sit upright. The nerves to the brachial plexus would have been blown away on his right side, and the ensuing inflammatory reaction would have been massive and devastating. It is obvious from watching the Zapruder film that KENNEDY WAS NOT HURT THAT BAD, that is, not until the fatal head shot. And if you watch the Z-film, you can see that he had begun to lower his arms; they were not stuck in spasm. It was not a Thorburn reaction. Kennedy raised his arms because he was choking on that bullet, which was stuck in his neck and was probably dug out of his neck at the "pre-autopsy" where they grossly enlarged the tracheotomy incision made by Malcolm Perry in order to do it. Gil Jesus is right that JFK was trying to cough out that bullet. It was not a Thorburn reflex reaction; it was a voluntary muscular response by JFK to being shot in the neck from the front.