The news media is alive with the idea that a “simple tweak” of padding in military helmets will reduce TBI (“traumatic brain injury”) and, perhaps, PTSD (“post traumatic stress disorder”). Ms. Claudia Cowan of Fox News, published an article on Aril 22nd which suggests that “a little padding goes a long way . . . to provide better protection from blunt force contact.”
Quoting scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Ms. Cowan suggests that “ by adding just a quarter-inch, or even an eighth of an inch, of padding, helmets had a 24 percent reduction in force to the skull.”
“‘When you look at the accelerations that can cause injury, just a small increase in thickness can knock that acceleration down to a point where it’ll make very severe injuries potentially a little less severe, and very light injuries maybe not happening at all,’ explained Michael King, the study co-author and a Lawrence Livermore mechanical engineer.”
The yearlong study, funded by the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, “concluded that the Army’s helmet padding worked just as well as the padding in NFL, but that there just needed to be a little more of it.”
“Concussions among U.S. troops in Afghanistan increased from 62 diagnosed cases in June to 370 in July when the new rules were imposed, according to the U.S. Central Command, which oversees combat here. From July through September, more than 1,000 soldiers, Marines and other U.S. servicemembers were identified with concussions, more than twice the number diagnosed during the previous four months, Central Command says.”
While adding more padding may sound like a simple fix, it would require soldiers to wear a helmet one size bigger, and carry additional weight on their shoulders all day. Helmets normally weigh about 5 1/2 pounds, and a larger size would add about 4 ounces.
While this appears to be very good news to curb the dramatic increase in PTSD injuries suffered by our troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, one wonders why it has taken so long to come up with this “simple tweak.” More importantly, how long will it take to provide our troops with the additional padding to protect against head injuries. In fact, some of the articles suggest that the military leadership is reluctant to increase the weight of equipment worn by servicemembers. Given the critical need to provide better protection for brain injury, it is hard to justify the delay when the “quick fix” adds only 4 oz to the 130 pounds of gear currently worn by servicemembers.
As SFTT has reported on several occasions, the US Army has had sensors embedded in helmets for well over three years to evaluate brain-related injuries. What took the US Army so long to come up with the “simple tweak”? Will it take as long to have the additional padding deployed to our brave heroes?