Helmet shield could prevent troop brain traumas

Wednesday - 11/24/2010, 9:40am EST

Raul Radovitsky, associate professor, Associate Director, MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies

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Preventing head and brain injuries is one of the big issues the military has to deal with fighting in areas like Iraq and Afghanistan. New research from MIT shows that adding face shields to helmets could go a long way to help avoid blast-induced brain injuries.

Raul Radovitsky is the associate director of MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. He joined Federal News Radio to explain why the shields could work.

After detailed studies of computer simulations of the impact of a frontal blast impact on the human skull, the team observed that the main transmission pathway for blast particles to the brain tissue was through the face. Especially, Radovitsky said, through the soft tissue in the eye and sinus regions.

In addition, the helmets currently used in combat, Radovitsky's team found, does not contribute to the transmission of blast energy or increase injury, contrary to prior research.

"It may not do a lot to help, but it certainly doesn't help, and I think that is an extremely important message to make clear," Radovitsky said.

However, the current helmets do not do much to protect the face. So Radovitsky's team looked into helmets that incorporate face shields that would deflect energy and matter off the face onto the helmet and other protective gear.

"It reduces the intensity of the stress waves that get propagated inside the brain tissue quite significantly," Radovitsky said.

While other forces, such as riot police, do already incorporate face shields, the constraints of combat equipment and environments posed problems.

"The main result is that covering the face will definitely help, but there is a lot of detail that still needs to be worked out," Radovitsky said.

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.