Fuller, outgoing commander of the Army office that equips soldiers, said the results are encouraging and possibly worth fielding on a limited and experimental basis with a brigade of soldiers. He said more research and validation of the findings are necessary.
Last summer, battlefield doctors in Afghanistan diagnosed more than 300 servicemembers per month with concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries and smaller numbers of servicemembers with more moderate or severe head wounds.
Concussions are a common wound among troops knocked about inside armored vehicles or flung to the ground while on foot patrols by an explosion from a roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device (IED). The study’s findings offer an answer drawn from equipment the Army already has, researchers say.
Helmets normally weigh about 5½ pounds. A size larger headgear would add about 4 ounces, Moss says. The study, which was funded by the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) found that adding padding beyond an eighth of an inch provided slightly better protection,but the Army is sensitive about creating helmets that are too large or heavy for soldiers, said Army Col. Todd Dombroski, former JIEDDO surgeon.
The scientists at Livermore compared the padding material used in sports equipment, including NFL football helmets, with that used in combat helmets. They found that the padding for sports helmets offered no better protection.
Trying to diminish the force of a blunt impact to the head is only one problem military scientists face in improving helmet protection for troops in the field, Dombroski said.
In combat, the brain is vulnerable to shrapnel and the blast wave from an explosion.
Although scientists might improve protection against a blow to the head, they have yet to develop bulletproof helmets or those that can guard against a blast wave.