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The Military Science

Military Helmet Design Contributes To Brain Damage 294

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the minor-oversights dept.
BuzzSkyline writes "Improvements in helmets have helped modern soldiers survive bullets and blasts that would have killed them in past wars. But increasing numbers of soldiers are suffering long lasting brain damage from explosions, partly as a result of what appears to be a flaw in helmet designs. Although the blast itself may not accelerate the brain inside a soldier's head enough to cause injury, shockwaves that make it through the space between a helmet and a soldier's head can cause the skull to flex, leading to ripples in the skull that can create damaging pressures in the brain. Simulations that relied on 'code originally designed to simulate how a detonated weapon rattles a building or tank' could lead to new helmets that reduce the traumatic brain injuries that many soldiers suffer as a result of improvised explosive devices and other moderate-sized blasts. The research is due to be published in Physical Review Letters, but a pre-print of the entire article is currently available on the Physics ArXiv."
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Military Helmet Design Contributes To Brain Damage

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  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:08PM (#29265585)
    Green military uniforms have also been observed to be a cause of brain damage, proportional to the number of stars on the uniform.
    • by Starcub (527362) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:16PM (#29265691)
      A truely scientific study would measure the amount of brain damage a person had prior to entering the military and figure out how to discount brain damage accrued as a result of non-combat related factors associated with being in the military.
      • by gnick (1211984) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:25PM (#29265847) Homepage

        I think that a scientific study for determining just how much military helmets actually contribute to brain damage when the soldier is exposed to an explosion would start by base-lining the brain conditions of 50 or so soldiers. Then, expose them all to the same explosion at the same stand-off orientation, half of them wearing helmets and half without. Then, re-test.

        If the guys without their helmets on come out behind the guys wearing helmets, we should re-title this, "Military Helmet Design Fails to Completely Prevent Brain Damage".

        Still, if they can model it up and do better, that sounds great.

        • by evanbd (210358) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:50PM (#29266245)

          You know, observational studies are still scientific. There are plenty of hypotheses that can be tested without randomized controlled trials.

          You're not going to claim that if astronomers really wanted to be scientific, they would start their research by gathering up a bunch of hydrogen and piling it together in empty space and then watching what happens, are you?

          It's also entirely possible your test methodology would fail. The helmet could well be preventing acute injury resulting in death (shrapnel through the skull), but increasing the diffuse brain damage to other parts of the brain. However, the death due to acute injury would make the diffuse injury rate difficult to determine. Preventing death but causing brain damage is clearly an improvement, but it doesn't mean the helmet merely "failed to completely prevent" the brain damage, if the brain damage wouldn't have occurred without it.

          Sometimes science is hard. It's still science, though, even if your "ideal" test methodology is impractical.

          • by gnick (1211984)

            You're not going to claim that if astronomers really wanted to be scientific, they would start their research by gathering up a bunch of hydrogen and piling it together in empty space and then watching what happens, are you?

            I'm not an astronomer and I understand your point. But if you can get that project funded, I want on the team. 'Cuz that would be about the most bad-ass experiment ever conducted. Move over LRC, we've got something better cookin'.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            You know, observational studies are still scientific. There are plenty of hypotheses that can be tested without randomized controlled trials.

            Not really. Observational studies are generally shodily researched, poorly implemented, have less than 50 data points and no controls, and are sloshed around in a statistical package until the numbers come out. They're generally done by people who have come to a conclusion and now need to dress it up with a "scientific study".

            Which isn't to say that a good observationa

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by karlwilson (1124799)
          Completely Prevent? Your brain is either damaged or it isn't. There really isn't an inbetween there.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Dragonslicer (991472)

            Completely Prevent? Your brain is either damaged or it isn't. There really isn't an inbetween there.

            I would submit that there's a slight difference between 1) trouble moving your left hand and slurred speech, 2) unable to speak or move anything on the left side of your body, and 3) dead.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by vlm (69642)

          I think that a scientific study for determining just how much military helmets actually contribute to brain damage when the soldier is exposed to an explosion would start by base-lining the brain conditions of 50 or so soldiers. Then, expose them all to the same explosion at the same stand-off orientation, half of them wearing helmets and half without. Then, re-test.

          In summary, run them thru the ASVAB after the incident and compare the before and after scores.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Services_Vocational_Aptitude_Battery [wikipedia.org]

          The main problem is the ASVAB was redesigned in '02 and rescored in '04. If it were not for that, you could just run them thru the full battery of MEPS tests (Military Enlistment Processing Station).

          One problem is the soldiers not wearing helmets are more likely to be inside the vehicle, so you're measuring truck drivers vs infantry instead of

        • Opinion of a Soldier (Score:5, Informative)

          by slpalmer (6337) <slpalmerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 31, 2009 @04:47PM (#29267005)

          I think a lot of this stems from the way the current helmet is fitted to the soldiers head. (Yes, I am a soldier, 18th Airborne Corp, Ft Bragg, NC)

            1 - The older Kevlar helmet was fitted to your head with a "sweat band" strapped to the inside of the helmet, which could be adjusted to fit your head exactly.

            2 - The newer ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) is fitted with velcro backed pads which attach inside the helmet.

          Let me say now that it is *very* common for CIF (where you get issued your equipment) to be out of your size and give you the next size up. With the older Kevlar (case 1 above) you could still fit the sweat band to fit your head, securing the helmet. With the ACH (case 2 above) if the helmet is too big, the pads will be loose on your head, and the helmet will rattle around on your head when concussions occur nearby.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by slpalmer (6337)

            One addition...

            The current issue of Army Times is reporting that there is a newer "plastic" helmet in the pipeline to replace the ACH.

        • That is "dead" on (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CFD339 (795926) <andrewp&thenorth,com> on Monday August 31, 2009 @08:43PM (#29269043) Homepage Journal

          My read was exactly the same. The helmets are now so much better at protecting heads than anything ever has been in the past, that we're having to model air pressure caused skull flex in order to find something to make better. That's fantastic! Not too long ago the trauma was more likely to be a piece of a bomb going through the brain that caused the damage.

          And yeah -- anything they can do to make them better is a good thing, but lets applaud how far they've come.

          The only thing I'd add, is that if we could find a way to have less soldiers in the way of bombs and bullets, we could be less aggressive on helmet designs too. Ah well.

      • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@pa3.14legray.net minus pi> on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:58PM (#29266357) Homepage Journal
        Here's the hitch: Service personnel are screened rather thoroughly for any potentially disqualifying medically significant incidents prior to being enlisted/commissioned. Almost any prior head trauma for which medical attention was sought would be a disqualifying factor, unless medical review showed (with a very high degree of certainty) no lasting impairment. As a result, while a few might slip through the cracks here and there, you're not going to find a significant number of personnel entering the service with prior brain damage. You might be surprised what sort of prior medical issues can disqualify someone from military service.
        • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Gilmoure (18428) on Monday August 31, 2009 @04:21PM (#29266691) Journal

          I was underweight for my height (5'10" / 115 lbs). After spending 6 months trying to gain weight, was able to get a waver and go in to basic. 4 years later, had managed to gain 12 lbs. Out on the flight line, they called me Stickman. I was able to get in through small access holes (KC-135's) and fix stuff that would have taken an extra hour of work to remove larger pieces of skin. Got a decent amount of free booze for helping speed up repairs.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by palegray.net (1195047)
            You remind me of a friend I had in the Navy. Especially on submarines, it's not always a good thing to be able to fit into tight spaces, although I must say my buddy was well regarded among the crew. Ah, the things he could clean...
        • by popeye44 (929152)

          Wow, that's new. When I went through they asked me about head injuries but didn't disqualify me for having spent the night in a hospital with a concussion. no x-rays etc just a couple questions and on my way.

          He did ask me four times if I ever smoked marijuana. I guess their priorities have changed since then.

          • The only change I can discern is the increased focus on prior medical issues. Maybe it's because I was a radioman, but they seemed to have an awful lot of questions about prior drug use, somehow phrased a little differently each time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tonywong (96839)
      The should use orange goo.

      http://tech.slashdot.org/story/09/08/31/0627236/The-Orange-Goo-That-Could-Save-Your-Laptop?art_pos=1
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:08PM (#29265589)

    War really does lead to some of our race's biggest advances.

    Although they did fail to consider the motivating potential of porn as well. Stupid Shadows...

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:13PM (#29265659) Journal

    Helmets which "have helped modern soldiers survive bullets and blasts that would have killed them in past wars" are being accused of causing brain damage.

    I guess boxing gloves cause brain damage, too? Or maybe it's boxing that causes brain damage, and the gloves reduce the risk...

    Now, if they can make better helmets that reduce the risk of brain damage even further, props to them. That doesn't mean the current generation of helmets are "causing" brain damage.

    • by szo (7842) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:19PM (#29265757)

      It's 'causing' the brain damage in a way that it prevents the solder from dying and thus hiding the symptoms of the brain damage :)

      • by nschubach (922175) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:33PM (#29265969) Journal

        I wonder if this may be the cause of "Gulf War Syndrome" we heard a lot about a few years back...

        • by gnick (1211984) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:46PM (#29266195) Homepage

          Maybe our helmets need a warning label: War may be hazardous to your health and has been known to cause such side effects as brain damage, PTSD, maiming, and death in many people during and after exposure.

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            I'm sure the state of California believes it causes cancer, too.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Nidi62 (1525137)
              It actually can. the M1A2 tank is coated with depleted uranium. If the tank gets hit(assuming the armor isnt penetrated, knocking the tank out)it can release particles of the depleted uranium. While there is not much radiation left in the uranium, enough exposure could possibly lead to a rise in cancer risk.
              • by weiserfireman (917228) on Monday August 31, 2009 @05:46PM (#29267651) Homepage
                The depleted uranium in a M1 Tank Armor is encased in steel. It does not "coat" the tank

                The crew is not going to be exposed to the uranium unless the armor gets penetrated. If the armor is penetrated the crew has bigger problems.

                Even then, it is not a big risk it will be penetrated, Of almost 5,000 M1 tanks built, only 10-12 tanks lost due to enemy action have had their armor penetrated. Only 7 soldiers have died in combat in an M1, 4 of those drowned when their tank collapsed a bridge.

                The crew members smoking or chewing tobacco is far greater cancer risk than the tank armor.

              • by budgenator (254554) on Monday August 31, 2009 @06:39PM (#29268121) Journal

                Uranium is an alpha emitter, outside the body it's radiation is harmless as the alpha particles have little penetration and can't effect living tissue, inside the body is the opposite, very hazardous because the radiation is completely absorbed by living tissue.

        • by megamerican (1073936) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:56PM (#29266325)

          I wonder if this may be the cause of "Gulf War Syndrome" we heard a lot about a few years back...

          How would a shock to the head cause auto-immune diseases, which is what Gulf War Syndrome is?

          http://www.autoimmune.com/GWSGen.html [autoimmune.com]

          "Gulf War Syndrome, or GWS, is the term which has been applied to the multi-symptom rheumatic disorder experienced by many veterans of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf war. A similar disorder appeared in 1990-1991-era personnel who were never deployed to the Persian Gulf theater of operations and also in other military personnel, including participants in the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program, or AVIP, which was inaugurated in 1997. No data has ever suggested that the disorder experienced by the deployed 1990-1991 soldiers is different from the disorder experienced by the other groups of patients, but the other cases have not been considered to be cases of GWS.

          Squalene was found by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in five lots of the AVIP anthrax vaccine. The discovery of serum anti-squalene antibodies and the development of a test to detect these antibodies has made it possible to see that links appear to exist between the contaminated AVIP vaccine lots, the illness experienced by post-1997 vaccine recipients, the illness experienced by non-deployed 1990-1991-era patients, and the illness in deployed 1990-1991-era patients that has been referred to as GWS."

        • by PyroMosh (287149) on Monday August 31, 2009 @04:08PM (#29266507) Homepage

          Unlikely. I have no idea if it's a real disease or not, or a popular misdiagnosis for a lot of other unrelated things. However, a great number of Gulf War Syndrome cases are with personnel who were not exposed to combat. Airmen on airbases, logistics folks, troops who never saw any real resistance in action, etc., etc.

          In other words, not a lot of soldiers were exposed to explosions at close range, and a great many more folks than that tiny cross section reported GWS.

          If it's real, it would have to be caused by something either pathogenic (unlikely, given that it seems the disease was not brought back home and spread to others) or environmental.

          Environmental causes seem more likely because of the sheer number of possible candidates.

          1. Burning oil wells, and the chemical muck that produced
          2. The first wide scale use of depleted uranium munitions
          3. Exposure to chemical weapons. Although chemical erapons were not deployed by Iraq during the war, some troops were exposed incidentally when storage facilities were destroyed.
          4. Chemical agents and vaccines used to protect against chemical and biological weapons

          All of these are suspect. There are studies saying yes, and no to most, if not all of these possible sources. Compound that with the real probability, that even if it's real, a great number of cases are probably folks who are scared and have some other disorder, who have convinced themselves otherwise, on top of the unscrupulous folks who are trying to turn this into a personal payday... we may never know if it's real, let alone what causes it if it is.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:24PM (#29265835) Homepage Journal

      Actually, the gloves DO cause brain damage. It's nearly impossible to knock someone our bare handed with a blow to the temple, but easy as hell with gloves. The glove protects the hands, not the face. Notice that in college or olympic boxing they wear protective gear on their heads?

      • by iamhigh (1252742) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:39PM (#29266095)

        It's nearly impossible to knock someone our bare handed with a blow to the temple

        While perhaps this is true for the temple (and only the temple), I have seen way to many UFC fights to agree with the general idea of this statement. Catch the jaw just right with a solid blow and just about anyone will go down.

        The gloves lessen the blow, but they also make it possible to sustain a fight for 10 rounds... that is where the damage occurs. Getting knocked out isn't that big of a deal, it's the repeated blows that mess you up.

        • by gnick (1211984) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:50PM (#29266247) Homepage

          The gloves lessen the blow, but they also make it possible to sustain a fight for 10 rounds... that is where the damage occurs. Getting knocked out isn't that big of a deal, it's the repeated blows that mess you up.

          You'd be surprised how many perfectly intelligent people fail to understand that. I watch a lot of UFC/MMA, but have never liked boxing. People who know I'm into UFC but don't really grasp the sport get confused when I tell them that I don't like boxing because it's too brutal. Our brains just weren't meant to be pummeled like that - Especially for those kind of durations. You often see UFC fighters get knocked loopy and wander off exhausted and beaten, but rarely do you see one truly punch-drunk.

      • by jake.tiger (1038046) on Monday August 31, 2009 @04:15PM (#29266591)

        Actually, the gloves DO cause brain damage. It's nearly impossible to knock someone our bare handed with a blow to the temple, but easy as hell with gloves. The glove protects the hands, not the face. Notice that in college or olympic boxing they wear protective gear on their heads?

        Well, I have professional Muay Thai experience and I'd agree with the gloves causing brain damage. However, as far as the general consensus goes, thats because of the gloves flexing and causing vibrations in your head. As well as that you can get hit a lot in the head, I read that it's better to get a hard blow and get knocked out than lots of small ones. Interestingly, I know a lot of sparring partners who dont like sparring in head-gear because they often feel more dizzy afterwards than without. They attribute this to the gear giving even more padding for the vibrations. When it comes to it being nearly impossible to knock someone out bare-handed I gotta disagree. It's got more to do with where you hit, and how prepared the opponent is. As they say, it's the one you dont see that'll knock you out. Obviously there are several other factors as well. In MMA they wear minimal protection on the hands and people get knocked out just fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I guess boxing gloves cause brain damage, too? Or maybe it's boxing that causes brain damage, and the gloves reduce the risk...

      Boxing gloves cause more damage than they prevent.

      Boxing gloves are meant to protect a boxer's hands, not his opponent's head. They do that so well that a modern boxer can keep dishing out hurt long after an early 19th century bare-knuckles boxer would have had both hands incapacitated by his own blows.

      Which allows the boxer to do more damage to his opponent, thus increasing the

    • by Itninja (937614) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:44PM (#29266163) Homepage
      From TFA: "The helmet acts as a windscoop, so the pressure between the skull and helmet is larger than the blast wave by itself,.."

      With a direct gunshot to the head the head saves their lives, but with indirect shockwaves (i.e. an IED going off a few meters away) the helmets have been shown to increase the likelihood of a TBI.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Gloves do exactly that. You get hit far more often and far harder by someone wearing gloves since their hand doesn't shatter quite so fast.

      Of course giving the fighter 10 seconds to recuperate instead of letting the other guy hit him a few more times and call it over likely causes more...

      From a helmet perspective it's possible a helmet could increase the amount of brain damage compared with no helmet. For the case of a nearby explosion in which no shrapnel actually hits the head/helmet. I'm not saying that

    • I think the article just uses bad semantics. Of course the helmet isnt actually causing brain damage. The critique is in the design not preventing something that could be fixed by filling the space between the Kevlar and the skull.

      The big problem is with people who have no experience with the military outside of hollywood productions. See, those of us who have military experience have learned early on that all of our equipment is made by the lowest bidder. In fact, most of the equipment that soldiers use is

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      Helmets which "have helped modern soldiers survive bullets and blasts that would have killed them in past wars" are being accused of causing brain damage.

      Yes. Because they do. The net effect on survivability may be positive, but they still appear to cause specific kinds of brain injuries.

      Observing that this is the case and understanding it is the first step to designing helmets that have the same beneficial features as current helemts without while eliminating or mitigating the injury-causing features, thus

  • Flaw (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Phoenixlol (1549649)
    This is considered a flaw in design? I was unaware that these helmets were designed to protect against shockwaves as oppoesed to simply projectiles. "Military Helmet Design Contributes To Brain Damage" makes it sound like the helmet itself is inflicting brain damage, no?
  • Misleading Title? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by quatin (1589389)
    I'm not following the title. An explosion near the head causes brain damage. Wearing a helmet mitigates the effects of the explosion. A military helmet is not maximally effective in mitigating the effects. How did we arrive at a military helmet causes brain damage?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      It's explained in TFA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Avalain (1321959)
      The part that they perhaps should have mentioned is that in the TFA they compared the new helmets with the helmets they stopped using in 2003. They found that there is a gap in the new helmet which makes it handle bullets better than the old one, but it seems to handle explosions worse.

      Basically, it's not that the helmet is causing brain damage. It's that the helmet is not protected the soldier from brain damage as well as the older helmet did.
      • See, it's crucial details like this that I shouldn't have to RTFA to find out. This is pivotal to the whole article and should be in the summary.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kamokazi (1080091)

      Logic. Specifically, journalistic logic. An accurate title would be boring, so logically you create a title that is more interesting and is also based on words found in the article. Duh.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:18PM (#29265735)

    You have been warned.

  • Great Headline. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Caue (909322) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:21PM (#29265787)
    Maybe it should have been "explosions cause brain damage and the helmet is not very efficient against those" or "don't wear a military helmet and use TNT"

    I tought helmets were designed to protect from debri and flying objects caused by explosions, not the shockwave from 2 pounds of C-4 lying around.

    • Maybe it should have been "explosions cause brain damage and the helmet is not very efficient against those" or "don't wear a military helmet and use TNT"

      Either of those would have been less on point, since TFA summarizes research which finds specific mechanisms by which two different military helmet designs (both the one currently in use and its immediate predecessor) directly contribute to brain injuries.

  • Actually not. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ljaszcza (741803)
    What a headline. Actually, overall, I would think that helmets reduce injury and death. Both in combat and civilian arenas. Just because an inefficiency in military helmet design exists is no reason to say that "Helmet Design Contributes to Brain Damage". As compared to what? Taking shrapnel or a bullet without a helmet? Now the article does suggest that the helmet may increase skull deformation from pressure waves secondary to the helmet design. But the authors admit that these are preliminary results and
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EmagGeek (574360)

      That's so true.. it's like blaming seatbelts for shoulder injuries sustained during collisions... of course, the alternative is MUCH worse...

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:23PM (#29265811) Homepage

    from the earlier story...

    Stick it in the lining.

  • Brain damage (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mcfatboy93 (1363705)

    It causes less damage if you use them, even if some scientist found a small flaw in their design. I think a bullet to the head would cause more problems then you brain taking a hit because your helmet stopped the bullet.

    I would also be more worried about the person shooting at you.

  • by sacremon (244448) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:28PM (#29265895)

    There was just an article earlier today (Orange Goo [slashdot.org]) about a material that helps absorb shock, so why not line the inside of the helmets with the stuff?

    • by PyroMosh (287149) on Monday August 31, 2009 @04:27PM (#29266787) Homepage

      Well, the helmets are designed primarily to be bullet resistant. One of the features it has that makes it bullet resistant is that the helmet doesn't sit on your head, it sits on a web suspension, and the helmet itself surrounds your head by about 1.3cm. That gap helps prevent rounds from penetrating the helmet.

      What the study is saying is that the same gap, put there on purpose because it's beneficial against bullets and shrapnel, allows the shockwave blast from an explosion to be more effective against the skull and brain than helmets without the gap.

      So now the next generation of helmets will likely try to find a happy balance between the gap, and perhaps some kind of foam solution as the article discusses. It's just more data to further refine designs with for the next generation of this particular technology.

  • There is no flaw in the helmet. What the article describes is simple - injuries that would normally kill people are now survivable due to superior helmets. But that leaves them alive with brain damage instead of dead.
    • No. The flaw in the helmet is described as a gap between the helmet and the head. That IS a flaw. If an explosion goes off overhead, assuming no debris or shrapnel or whatever is going to hit the soldier, he'll survive it anyways. Now if he's wearing a helmet, that shockwave will push the helmet (similar to a baseball bat hitting a baseball) and that gap will give it momentum to physically hit the head.

      Sounds pretty flawed to me.

    • There is no flaw in the helmet.

      I supposed that depends on how you define "flaw"...

      What the article describes is simple

      True, which it makes it more surprising that you get it wrong.

      injuries that would normally kill people are now survivable due to superior helmets.

      That is not, in fact, what TFA describes.TFA describes mechanisms by traumatic brain injury occurs in blast situations, and the specific ways that both the former-standard PASGT helmet design and the newer ACH design increase the effects of these m

  • From TFA: "Because the effects TBI are so long-lasting and complex, the cost to the government is enormous."

    I know it costs a lot to train, feed, and deploy a soldier. And when said solider is hit with a TBI it actaully costs more than if they had actually been killed outright. But even with that I think the 'cost to government' is not even on the radar when compared with the trillion+ bailout. Not to sound cold (and I have family deployed right now), but these soldiers are just meat to the government. N
    • by MaWeiTao (908546)

      Apparently the government does care about what happens to these soldiers, otherwise we wouldn't be discussing these findings.

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:39PM (#29266091)

    I remember reading a similar article about motorcycle helmets, which said that the incident of brain trauma was higher in helmeted riders versus helmetless. Same reason - the rigid helmet transmitted shockwave straight through the skull to the brain, where the facial structure absorbed a lot of the shock in unhelmeted riders.

    So the choice seemed to be pretty and brain damaged, or ugly and smart.

    I think they've redesigned the helmets since then.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kashani (2011)

      This is completely false. Idiot people who don't want to have to wear a helmet continue to bring that nonsense up. Think about it. How can a helmet which spreads an impact out over a large space *and* absorbs impact via padding be worse than no helmet at all.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tilandal (1004811)

        Easy, just don't count the people who die from trauma to the head while riding without a helmet.

    • by JerkBoB (7130) on Monday August 31, 2009 @04:12PM (#29266545)

      So the choice seemed to be pretty and brain damaged, or ugly and smart.

      I think they've redesigned the helmets since then.

      I think the choice was more like "pretty, possibly brain-damaged, but ALIVE" and "face ground off by asphalt and DEAD".

      I have personally witnessed two motorcycle accidents... In the first one, the guy dumped his bike while making a tight turn at a rain-slicked intersection. His (helmeted) head hit the pavement hard. Probably wouldn't have killed him, but he would definitely not have been getting up to ride after that without a helmet. Second one, the poor bastard hit a deer at about 70mph. Cut the thing right in two, and he slid on the highway for a while. I stopped to help him, and I saw up-close how badly chewed-up his helmet was. Lucky for him he wasn't one of those assholes who rides wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt. His gloved hands were a bit bloody, his knee was probably broken, and his helmet had been worn down in one spot so far that I could see the internal layers. But he was alive.

      I know you were talking about older bike helmet designs, but I hate to see anything that could give no-helmet idiots more fuel for rationalizing their stupidity and selfishness.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Burning1 (204959)

      I remember reading a similar article about motorcycle helmets, which said that the incident of brain trauma was higher in helmeted riders versus helmetless. Same reason - the rigid helmet transmitted shockwave straight through the skull to the brain, where the facial structure absorbed a lot of the shock in unhelmeted riders.

      I'm a motorcycle commuter, and I've never heard that statement except when used by people attempting to justify riding without a helmet. The same basic argument is used by opponents of

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by eggnoglatte (1047660)

        The big argument against modern helmets is that they are actually designed to provide protection against unrealistically strong blows. A firmer foam will protect against heavier blows, but won't compress as much when subjected to a lighter strike. The more the helmet compresses, the slower the head inside the helmet can decelerate, reducing the forces the brain is subjected to.

        Well, that is what speed ratings are for. If you you go offroading, where you are likely to have a reasonable number of smaller falls, you should buy a soft padding helmet, and not a hard one that was designed to keep you alive during a 200 MPH crash on track day. The problem is, a lot of people think a higher speed rating is better, no matter what. That simply ain't so.

        Agree with the rest of your post, though.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Burning1 (204959)

          I don't do much dirt riding, so I cannot comment on the construction of dirt helmets.

          Street helmets are not marked for any specific speed rating. Generally, a helmet is either stamped that it meets DOT specifications, or it's been certified by the SNELL Memorial Foundation. [smf.org] The SNELL foundation pushes the most stringent impact requirements, and are the generally target of criticisms that helmets are being engineered for unrealistic impacts.

          For consumers, it's difficult to impossible to pick a helmet based o

  • Yes - it IS flawed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:47PM (#29266211) Journal

    shockwaves that make it through the space between a helmet and a soldier's head

    Either Jarhead isn't wearing his helmet properly or there IS a major flaw in the design. This kind of thing is mentioned everywhere.

    Have you ever worn a bike helmet that was 3 sizes too large? How effective was it? Heres an experiment, place a ball on the ground and smack it with your hand. Notice how much it bounces, moves, etc etc. Now take that ball and hold it 2 feet off the ground. Now hit it, and see how much more it bounces.

    If the helmet has an inch of gap, its no surprise that helmets are hitting troops with more effective damage then if they were wearing nothing at all.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Ever wear a kevlar helmet that's skin-tight in 140 deg heat? OF FUCKING COURSE there's a gap. It's so you can fit it on your head, so they don't have to custom-order a helmet for everyone's head, so you can breath, so the suspension harness can absorb small shocks, etc. There's padding inside that rests between the head and the kevlar, but there has to be gaps to let your head breath. "Jarhead" knows how to wear is helmet, and every other part of his gear. That's his job. If it isn't snug and riding th
    • by beckett (27524)

      a bike collision involves different types and magnitude of force than a close explosion. the head also must be held in damping suspension to attenuate impact shock from bullets. take a look at the type of deformation that occurs when it takes a bullet [discovery.com]. an explosive concussion would probably compress foam padding that would otherwise feel very secure on the head in normal wear.

      Similar to improvements in body armour, more soldiers are returning crippled when they would have come home in body bags in past w

    • by slpalmer (6337)

      I think a lot of this stems from the way the current helmet is fitted to the soldiers head. (Yes, I am a soldier, 18th Airborne Corp, Ft Bragg, NC)

      1 - The older Kevlar helmet was fitted to your head with a "sweat band" strapped to the inside of the helmet, which could be adjusted to fit your head exactly.
      2 - The newer ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) is fitted with velcro backed pads which attach inside the helmet.

      Let me say now that it is *very* common for CIF (where you get issued your equipm

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      shockwaves that make it through the space between a helmet and a soldier's head

      Either Jarhead isn't wearing his helmet properly or there IS a major flaw in the design.

      Or maybe you don't know what you are talking about.

      Have you ever worn a bike helmet that was 3 sizes too large? How effective was it?

      Apples and anchovies. Other than belonging to the same general class of 'helmets', these two types have little to do with each other as they have widely divergent design goals. A bike helmet is meant to

  • by blakedev (1397081) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:50PM (#29266241)
    But I'm in the military, and I'd rather brain damage than brain splattage.
  • Was a simple metal hat with a (fiberglass?) liner. The current helmet provides far more protection than the previous model. Keep that in mind in the context of this criticism.

    Also, as a minor quibble point, the airborne modification of the helmet has additional padding on the interior which may affect the dynamic of the air gap between outer shell and liner. My assumption is that the study was performed on the standard helmet configuration, but it's worth observing that there are non-standard configurations

    • [The Previous Helmet] Was a simple metal hat with a (fiberglass?) liner. The current helmet provides far more protection than the previous model. Keep that in mind in the context of this criticism.

      TFA discusses mechanisms by which the previous (PASGT helmet, which was a Kevlar helmet with a web suspension, not a metal helmet with a fiberglass liner) and current (ACH/MICH helmet, which uses a more advanced version of Kevlar, and foam-pad suspension.) Metal helmets for general use were phased out in the 1980s

  • It's kind of interesting to see a story like this. Helmets were once made out of copper or leather or other soft materials leading to extremely strong steel helmets and now composite (almost brittle) helmets that absorb impact. Why? Because in the previous designs, they were found faulty, and someone ingeniously improved upon the old design.

    Can we expect helmets to protect against everything? Let's say that helmets did protect well against the shockwaves of blasts, then the article author would be compl

  • That explains some of the behavior of my Drill Sergeants.

  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Monday August 31, 2009 @04:30PM (#29266811)

    When I wore the Army helmets in basic training, I noticed this design flaw. Basically, there's no padding or shock absorbing foam in the helmet. (there's a redesigned helmet that is in use now that has a little bit of padding but not like a bike helmet). Sometimes, soldiers would playfully rifle butt each other in the head. I noticed whenever this happened to me that the rigid helmet would let most of the force of the blow right through, and it would make a loud ringing sound. Evidently, that's pretty bad when an IED goes off.

    Of course, the ultimate solution is to put infantry drones in the blast zone of IED, not human beings. Unfortunately for all the soldiers who have died, the tech won't be ready for another 20-30 years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      When I wore the Army helmets in basic training, I noticed this design flaw. Basically, there's no padding or shock absorbing foam in the helmet.

      Actually, there is in the current design (perhaps you used the previous PASGT in Basic Training), which why TFA notes that it almsot completely eliminates the problem resulting from the "underwash" effect that TFS is referring to. Unfortunately, TFA finds that the padded-suspension design the newer helmet design uses still increases brain injury in blasts, by tight

  • Bavarians (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday August 31, 2009 @05:53PM (#29267713) Homepage Journal

    In the first world war German soldiers found that the spikes on their pointy helmets tended to get caught on things like tree branches, bunker roofs and occasionally each other.

    The Bavarians came up with an ingenious solution - put the spike on the inside. As an added bonus it stopped them falling off.

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