The Army wants to help reduce the risk of brain injury to military service members by issuing larger helmets containing slightly thicker padding, according to a study released in April 2011.
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Larger Helmets May Reduce Soldiers' Brain Injury Risk

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The Army wants to help reduce the risk of brain injury to military service members by issuing larger helmets containing slightly thicker padding, according to a study released in April 2011.

The study at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, funded by the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), found that adding padding beyond an eighth of an inch provided slightly better protection. However, according to Army Col. Todd Dombroski, former JIEDDO surgeon, the Army is cautious about creating helmets that are too large or heavy for soldiers in combat.

Researchers and physicists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found that an eighth of an inch increase in cushion mass could decrease impact to the skull by 24 percent. Still, the benefit of larger helmets must be balanced with the Army goal of keeping soldiers as light as possible.

BRAIN INJURY AND CONCUSSION AMONG SOLDIERS

Brain injury has been commonplace among soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, especially among troops inside armored vehicles who can be flung to the ground by an explosion from a roadside bomb or an IED.

In combat, the human brain is extremely vulnerable to shrapnel wounds and blast waves from explosions. During the summer of 2010, battlefield doctors in Afghanistan diagnosed over 300 troops per month with concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries, with some military service members developing severe head wounds.

Helmets normally weigh about 5 and a half pounds. A size larger headgear would add about 4 ounces.

WEIGHING THE BENEFITS OF HELMET PROTECTION

The Livermore study found that padding used in sports helmets offered no better protection than padding for combat helmets. According to Dombroski, reducing the harmful impact of head trauma to military service members is only one of many challenges faced by scientists working to improve helmet protection for troops in the field.

Although military scientists might improve protection against a blow to the head with larger helmets and thicker padding, the technology is yet to come to create blast wave-guard or bulletproof helmets.



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