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Better Helmet Design Might Lower Soldiers' Risk for Brain Injury
Date:11/22/2010

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Adding face shields to soldiers' helmets could diminish brain damage resulting from explosions, which account for more than half of all combat-related injuries sustained by U.S. troops, a new study suggests.

Using computer models to simulate battlefield blasts and their effects on brain tissue, researchers learned that the face is the main pathway through which an explosion's pressure waves reach the brain.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 130,000 U.S. service members deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq have sustained blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) from explosions.

The addition of a face shield made with transparent armor material to the advanced combat helmets (ACH) worn by most troops significantly impeded direct blast waves to the face, mitigating brain injury, said lead researcher Raul Radovitzky, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

"We tried to assess the physics of the problem, but also the biological and clinical responses, and tie it all together," said Radovitzky, who is also associate director of MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. "The key thing from our point of view is that we saw the problem in the news and thought maybe we could make a contribution."

Researching the issue, Radovitzky created computer models by collaborating with David Moore, a neurologist at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Moore used MRI scans to simulate features of the brain, and the two scientists compared how the brain would respond to a frontal blast wave in three scenarios: a head with no helmet, a head wearing the ACH, and a head wearing the ACH plus a face shield.

The sophisticated computer models were able to integrate the force of blast waves with skull features such as the sinuses, cere
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